By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
The Piqua softball team has a big hole up the middle left by graduation.
But, Lady Indians coach Rick Claprood is confident he has enough young talent for another good spring after going 21-5 last season and sharing the GWOC North title with a 9-1 record.
Lost to graduation, along with Brandi Baker, were pitcher Haley Dotson, catcher Kaity McCawley, second baseman Alex Cox and centerfielder Kaci Cotrell.
Dotson had an 18-5 record on the mound with a 1.78 ERA, while the four combined for 12 of Piqua’s 13 home runs and 94 of the team’s 175 RBI.
“They just had so many clutch hits for us,” Claprood said. “Haley (Dotson) was a force on the mound and they were all very good defensively. No question there is some big losses there.”
Taking over on the pound will be Jade Piatt, who was 3-0 with a .83 ERA last season as sophomore after moving in from Houston.
Kyla Blankenship and Megan Anderson will also see action on the mound.
“Jade (Piatt) didn’t get to throw that much last year because we had Haley,” Claprood said. “Now it is time for Jade to step up. She is throwing harder with more break on her pitches all the time, which is what we want to see.”
Taking over for McCawley at the catcher position is senior Emily Smith, with sophomore Reynna Lavey also seeing action behind the plate.
Playing in the outfield last spring, Smith batted .345 with four doubles, three triples and 15 RBI.
“She came to us from Lehman last year and was a pleasant surprise,” Claprood said. “It is her job behind the plate.”
Piqua will again be strong on the corners with Anderson (first base) and Blankenship (third base) returning after strong freshman seasons.
Anderson batted .388 with seven doubles, a triple, 10 RBI and nine stolen bases.
Blankenship hit .308 with two doubles, a triple, 15 RBI and seven stolen bases.
“They are both great athletes and very good players,” Claprood said.
Two freshman will handle second base and shortstop.
Alyssa Jones will get the nod at shortstop if she can return from injury, with Gordon at second base.
“They are two great players,” Claprood said. “Alyssa is out six-to-eight weeks, so we will have to see if she can come back. If not, Sierra Miller will go back to shortstop.”
Senior Janise Hummel leads the outfield group in left field.
Hummel batted .345 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, 11 RBI and eight stolen bases.
“Janise goes after everything out there in the outfield,” Claprood said. “There is nobody who gives more effort. She hit the ball well last year and I think she will hit it even better this year.”
Miller is scheduled to play in centerfield, after spending her freshman season at shortstop.
After making the switch to the left side of the plate, she batted .265 with a double, 12 RBI and four stolen bases.
“I think she is more comfortable in centerfield,” Claprood said. “But, she will do whatever it takes to help the team.”
Sharing the duties in rightfield will be freshman Kelsie Hall and Kendra Forness.
“They are both outstanding players,” Claprood said.
And Claprood sees the league as pretty strong.
“We don’t look at ourselves as second to Greenville,” Claprood said. “We expected to win both games with them. Nothing against them. They have a great program. But, our goal is not to finish second.”
Vandalia-Butler, Troy and Sidney should all be solid as well.
“Vandalia-Butler was young last year, so I expect them to be strong,” Claprood said. “Troy was senior oriented, but they had a strong group of freshman and sophomores, so I expect them to be strong. Coach New is back at Sidney, so I expect them to be real strong.”
Just as he expects the same from his team — despite some big holes to fill.
Rob Kiser can be reached at 773-2721 ext. 209