Preview: Softball starts season talented but young, inexperienced, talented

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home’s softball team returns five players with varsity experience while adding a large group of freshmen this season.

“We have no seniors, which means we’re young and inexperienced,” said Coach Shane Cochran. “We have talent. We’re just young.”

The team has lost four players to graduation: Natalie Thorpe, Sierra Thayer, McKenzie Cochran and Caytlin Gillespie.

Returnees include junior Sarita Zanona, who saw time at pitcher and infield last year; junior Madi Barringer, who played first base; sophomore Ally Tow, who primarily pitched; sophomore Makenna Melbye, who played infield; and sophomore Britney Zook, who played third base.

“Those five returning girls, we’re looking to them to bring the whole team along,” Cochran said.

Sophomore Brianna Hoffman joins the team this year after missing last season with an injury. She would have pitched last year, had she been able to play. Tow and Zanona filled in for her.

“We’re looking for Hoffman to bring some good pitching,” Cochran said. “She looks good. She’s throwing good.”

Joining them are sophomore Kylie Armstrong and freshmen Sunhee Bitter, Marissa Kurtz, Sydney Mauer, Kennedi Waldrop and Allison Brown.

“They’re all good kids, good grades,” Cochran said. “It’ll be a fun season.”

Things have changed from last year, and he hasn’t settled who is playing which positions yet.

The team has lost most of its speed, Cochran said, but the Huskies still have Zook, who can steal some bases.

“We’re going to have to rely on defense a lot,” Cochran said. “Hopefully, we’ll get through preseason and learn a lot.”

By the beginning of the season, he would like the team to be hitting above average, he said, but that will depend on how many preseason games the Huskies can get in.

While young, the Huskies are shooting high.

“The girls, they set the goal for first place,” Cochran said. “I’ll have to be honest, I think we’re in the running for first place.”

He expects Elmira, last year’s league champion, to be tough again. The Huskies finished second behind the Falcons. Three of Sweet Home’s four league losses were against Elmira, which went undefeated in Sky-Em play.

Sisters won one game 9-8 against the Huskies.

Elmira returns the same pitcher, and that will be Sweet Home’s toughest challenge, Cochran predicted. The Huskies are scheduled to open league play against Elmira on April 4.

Junction City will have a solid team, Cochran said.

The Tigers finished third in league last year with a record of 7-8.

Sweet Home ended last season with a loss to Corbett 7-6 in the play-in round at home.

Mike Zanona returns as assistant coach. Ron Moore joins the team as an assistant coach. Zanona will coach first base, and Moore will be in the dugout.

Junior varsity is coached by Karyn Hartsook, with KayDee McDaniel assisting her.

The junior varsity includes Chloe Burks, Kendal Soland, Kayla Miller, Aliya Boss, Kiana Burks, Rachel Galster, Peyton Ash, Kaitlyn Poteet, Hailey Silver, Alana Silver, Shahalie Erickson and Shayla Hunsaker.