New-look Pine-Richland softball ready for spotlight
There are plenty of fresh faces on the Pine-Richland softball team this season, as first-year coach Gary Shepard leads a roster of 18 players, with 13 being sophomores or freshmen.
New names might outnumber old ones this year, Shepard said, that will make the contributions of returning players much more valuable.
“Overall, we're pretty young. We have seven freshmen, six sophomores, only two juniors and three seniors. We're young but we're really going to be led by our three seniors. They have a lot of experience,” Shepard said.
“We're counting on them to lead the way on the field and to help with the younger players who don't have a lot of experience at the high school level.”
Power-hitting Pitt commit Brie Horrell returns to lead the Rams' seniors, which also includes Jackie Langer and Emma Keilly.
Langer batted .369 last season and earned all-section honors. Keilly will fill a role in the outfield this season.
In addition to this year's seniors, Pine-Richland boasts a pair of juniors who helped the Rams win 11 games last season.
Anna Slebonick, led the team in batting average last year while the other, Jackie Hanson, led the Rams in home runs.
“Anna and Jackie are the two juniors. They both have really strong bats, and they're good defensively as well. I think for us, it's really just a matter of working on being aggressive at the plate and being aggressive in the field,” Shepard said.
“We just want to do the fundamental things, and let everything else take care of itself.”
Julia Simpson returns at catcher, and fellow sophomore Katie Horrell figures to play a prominent role after batting .352 last season.
Each of Pine-Richland's three pitchers — Morgan Hall, Cameron Devinney and Allie Tomicek — are sophomores.
Freshmen Paige Nelson, Sarah Hanson and Joslyn Hostetler are expected to see playing time.
Shepard said the Rams are capable of putting up big offensive numbers, and he believes by sticking to fundamentals Pine-Richland will fare well in Section 3-6A.
“We've really been stressing the fundamentals. I'm not worried about them making the splashy play. I mean, we want to see aggression out there but really. I can't tell you how many ground balls these kids have seen since September,” Shepard said.
“Just building that repetition and working on fundamentals, I think if you have that baseline then you'll be successful.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.