By BRETT MARSHALL
Lakin softball coach Eric Jorgensen isn't quite sure what to make of his team that opened its season on Monday at Ulysses.
After all, he returns perhaps the top player in southwest Kansas in senior catcher Amy Dunn. He has a dependable and experienced pitcher in senior Jodie Jennings and has senior Taylor Fredericksen, another experienced player who can switch from the infield to outfield.
What keeps Jorgensen unsure is how he will replace Tiana Perea, an outfielders last year, along with his graduated first baseman, second baseman, third baseman and another outfielder.
"Basically, we've got our pitcher and catcher back and everything else is not set," Jorgensen said. "Obviously we are very happy to have a player of Amy's caliber back and Jodie has shown more consistency in her control and her offspeed pitches as we've prepared for the start of the season. If she can do those two things, we have a chance to compete."
In Dunn, Jorgensen has perhaps one of the best all-around athletes in southwest Kansas. She was named to the 2009 All-Area spring sports team.
"I think Amy has a chance to have a great season and based on the preseason she continues to work as hard as ever and is a great leader," Jorgensen said. "It would be nice to have her for more than just this one more year, but we're certainly glad we've had her for the time she's played."
Dunn came within one home run of tying the state's all-time single season mark when she belted 11 home runs in just 59 at-bats. Her .542 average led Lakin, who went 11-9. In addition, Dunn had six doubles, two triples and drove in 37 runs in just the 20 games.
"She handles everything with poise and just demonstrates everything a coach wants in a leader," Jorgensen said.
Jennings, who pitched every game for the Broncs a year ago, will split her spring sports with track and field, so Jorgensen said it will be interesting to see if that dual sport competition affects her pitching.
"If she's on her game, that will be one of the strong points for us," Jorgensen said. In addition to her pitching duties, Jennings batted .361, third highest on a team that had a .319 team batting average.
u u u
Postseason playoff success is no stranger to the Stanton County softball program.
Last year, the Lady Trojans posted a 17-7 record and won the Class 2A sub-state to advance to the state tournament. The visit to Emporia was short-lived as Stanton County fell to eventual state champion Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan in the opening round. In 2006, the Trojans finished second.
Kendrick, entering his seventh season at the helm, will have experience returning in senior infielder Kaitlin Porter; juniors Gylee Martin (outfield/infield), Alex Nichols (pitcher/outfield) and Cheyenne Loader (outfield/infield) and sophomores Lea Daniels (catcher) and Larissa Batterton (outfield).
u u u
If the Holcomb Lady Longhorns improve as much from a year ago to this season as they did from the year before, second-year coach Jennifer Barrett will have plenty to smile about.
Taking a team that went 5-16 two years ago, Barrett led Holcomb to a 12-9 record last year in her first year at the helm. She had been an assistant with the program for three years.
If the Longhorns are to be successful they will ride the pitching of senior Lori Harshbarger, who posted a 12-8 record last year and won her first two games of this season against Scott City.
Junior infielder Amy Stegman, who split duties between second base and shortstop, batted .326 for Barrett last year. Tiffany O'Rourke, a senior first baseman, batted .318. Returning to catcher while also playing some outfield is junior Christina Burns, who hit .326.
u u u
Fourth-year Sublette coach Bob Lamborn has three returning seniors and two returning juniors from last year's squad that went 4-17. The experience returning is what Lamborn will count on for his team's improvement as they started Tuesday against Southwestern Heights.
Pitcher/shortstop Rachel Walter is back after batting .484 in her junior season. Another senior, Abril Aredondo, who split time between third base and the outfield, was an All-Hi Plains League selection two years ago. The other senior with experience is first baseman/outfielder Emily Carminati. Juniors Anna Messlery (second base/shortstop) returns after hitting .400 and catcher/outfielder Austin Davis posted a .326 batting average.
Lamborn expects to get immediate contributions from three new players — junior right-handed pitcher Haley Miller, and freshmen outfielders Mikalena Martinez and Taylor Mason.