In recent seasons, Daviess County softball coach John Biggs and his staff have set a high standard, and, despite heavy losses to graduation, the ever-consistent Lady Panthers remain the team to beat in the 9th District and 3rd Region in 2023.
“Our program has experienced a historical two-year run,” said Biggs, whose team was KHSAA state runner-up to Louisville Butler in 2021 before reaching the state tournament quarterfinals last season. “I’m proud of the championship culture we’ve been able to establish.
“Expectations are high here, and that’s where we want them to be. We play 15 teams in the preseason state Top 25 poll, and this type of schedule will prepare us well for the postseason.”
The Lady Panthers posted a sterling 31-6 record last spring.
Ranked No. 7 statewide to start the season, DC will go with an infield led by power-hitting senior first baseman Jessie Daniels, a Campbellsville University signee who hit .467 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs last spring.
“Jessie is a tremendous hitter,” Biggs said. “She’ll lead the way at the plate.”
Others include freshman shortstop Annie Newman (.324), sophomore third baseman Sadie Morris (.455), sophomore Danielle Beckwith and junior McKayla Rowen, who will battle it out at second, and senior Cadence Hamilton and eighth-grader Callie Smith, who will share duties behind the plate.
The Lady Panthers’ outfield features senior speedster Kayley Payne in center, with as many as six others vying for the corner slots. Kaitlyn Hill is expected to see plenty of at-bats in the designated player position.
DC’s bread and butter, of course, is senior pitcher Raylee Roby, one of the state’s very best. Last season, Roby finished 21-5 with a 1.58 ERA, registering 245 strikeouts in 163 innings of work.
“She’s all business in the circle,” Biggs said of Roby, who is headed to Murray State. “She doesn’t like to lose.”
The E-Gals are coming off a 17-14 season, which included a first-round loss to Owensboro Catholic in the 9th District Tournament.
Apollo coach Stephen Julian is looking for more in 2023.
“We had a decent season last year, but we were young, experience-wise, in some key spots,” Julian said. “We’re a year older, wiser and stronger this season, so we’re hoping to put things all together and have a successful season.”
The E-Gals’ infield will feature sophomore catcher Macy Calhoun, eighth-grade shortstop Lily Logsdon and freshman third baseman Arianna Ramirez (.351, 7 HR, 29 RBIs). The right side of the infield features a host of contenders for starting roles.
“Arianna is an outstanding player,” Julian said. “She has great footwork at third, and she can swing it at the plate.”
Apollo’s leading returning hitter, senior Morgan Julian (.411), anchors the outfield, along with junior speedster Mallory Vellotta, who scored 39 runs and stole 20 bases last spring. Other outfield contenders include junior Hannah Snell, freshman Taylor Clark and sophomore Addison Gray.
Senior right-hander Emmie Bullington is back for her final prep season in the circle after going 14-7 with a 2.99 ERA a year ago.
“She’s very solid out there,” Julian said of his pitching ace. “This spring, she’s throwing harder than ever.”
Goals remain high at Apollo.
“We want to be in the regional championship game,” Julian said. “Anything less is a letdown.”
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The Lady Aces are coming off a huge season, winning the All ‘A’ Classic small-school state championship and finishing runner-up to rival Daviess County in both the 9th District and 3rd Region tournaments.
Now, coach Jeremy Phelps is hoping to take Catholic to the next level.
“We have eight seniors, so the returning experience at the varsity level is what gives us a lot of confidence at the start of the season,” Phelps said. “Our overall depth is better than it’s been, too, and I feel like we’re a solid 14-15 deep.”
The Lady Aces’ infield features junior catcher Macy Merritt, senior first baseman Bailey Hamilton (team-leading .473 batting average in 2022), senior second baseman Addison Tignor (.323), sophomore shortstop Gracie Dukate and sophomore third baseman Tyranda Stuart.
Senior speedster Lilli Grant (13 stolen bases) will play center field and senior Abbie Dukate is ticketed for right field. A host of players are in contention for playing time in left field. Freshman Hannah Robbins is expected to be the primary designated player.
On the mound, senior Brooke Hamilton leads the way after going 13-10 with a 3.16 ERA as a junior. Senior Lexi Hatchett, however, has elected not to play softball this season, so Phelps will be counting on the development of Robbins in the No. 2 slot.
“Brooke has a great mentality about the game, and I have a lot of confidence in her,” Phelps said. “I believe Hannah will get better and better as the season goes along.”
Phelps like his squad.
“We want to set the tone early in the season, go back to the All ‘A’ and hopefully repeat,” Phelps said. “Then, of course, we want to be at our best by the end of the season.”
Building from the ground up with young players the past two seasons, the Lady Devils are hoping to take a major step forward under coach Quincy Moorman.
“We’re expecting big things from this group this season,” said Moorman, whose team was 11-20 overall and 0-7 against 9th District foes a year ago. “Our players have gained a lot of valuable experience, continue to learn and grow in the game.
“We’re still young, but we have several young players with a lot of (varsity) experience — we’re looking forward to the challenge this season.”
To start the season, the infield features sophomore catcher Kaysi Burden, sophomore first baseman Kirsten Tindle, sophomore second baseman Elli Embry, junior shortstop Sophie Moorman (.354) and sophomore third baseman Hessi Johnson, a transfer from Apollo. Junior Emmi Connor (.333), the regular shortstop, is battling a shoulder injury. Senior catcher Lindsey Gibson will also see action.
Outfielders expected to contribute include junior Ashleigh Howard, sophomore Addison Hill (team-best .361 batting average in 2022), freshman Reese Boswell and sophomore Alyssa Rhineburger.
Owensboro’s No. 1 pitcher is senior K’Asia Palmer, another Apollo transfer, with Tindle and Rhineburger also in the mix.
“For the first time, we have a mixture of power and speed, and this gives us more options,” Moorman said. “We’re going to be able to put speed on the bases and have hitters who can bring them home. Defensively, we’ve done a 180 (degrees) turnaround over the past couple of years — we have players on the field who can make the play.”
Moorman is ready for OHS to take it to the next level.
“Our pitching is stronger, and we have more depth there, which is key,” he said. “Our defense is better, and our bats are going to be there. We’re excited about the possibilities.”
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