Rick Claprood returns for his 15th season as Piqua softball coach.
He will be assisted by Eric Blankenship and Greg Gordon
Piqua finished 21-6 overall last year and shared the GWOC North title with an 8-2 mark.
The Lady Indians must replace three players who graduated last year.
Kyla Blankenship was All-GWOC and GWOC North Player of the Year, while Megan Anderson was All-GWOC and Reynna Lavey was All-GWOC North.
Blankenship was 19-4 on the mound with a 1.68 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 142 innings.
She also batted .425 with six doubles, a triple and 33 RBIs.
Anderson, the centerfielder, hit .543 with seven doubles, 16 RBIs and 24 stolen bases, while Lavey — the catcher — batted .400 with four doubles, a triple, three home runs and 35 RBIs.
But, the Indians also return a talented group.
Piqua returns two four-year starters up the middle.
Shortstop Alyssa Jones was an All-GWOC North selection last year and batted .418 with four doubles, two triples, 32 RBIs and 19 stolen bases; while second baseman Lexi Gordon was a second team All-GWOC North selection while batting .524 with five doubles, two triples, 19 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
Senior outfielder Kendra Forness was a first-team All-GWOC North selection and batted .347 with five doubles, a triple, a home run and 12 RBIs.
Senior catcher/first baseman Rayna Brownlee and sophomore third baseman Mariah Blankenship were special mention All-GWOC North selections.
Brownlee hit .269 with 16 RBIs, while Blankenship hit .333 with four doubles and 16 RBIs.
Senior first baseman Kelsie Hall batted .295 last year with two home runs, while junior pitcher/outfielder Morgan Ford hit .350 with two doubles.
Also returning are junior Sarah Marion and sophomore Haleigh Beougher, while rounding out the roster are senior Allie Popp, sophomores Kylie and Kamy Trisell and freshman Hannah Anderson.
“We return an experienced group of four varsity seasoned seniors,” Claprood said. “All play at a high caliber and are good leaders and appear ready to begin the season. Our goal is to always play hard and focus one game at a time in order to keep everything in balance.”
As always, Claprood hopes to compete for a league title in the GWOC North.
Mechelle Heitkamp takes over for Dean Denlinger, who left to coach the Miami East baseball team.
Heitkamp is a former Versailles standout, who played basketball and softball at Wittenberg University.
Heitkamp was Versailles softball coach for five seasons and won three MAC titles.
She is taking over a Lady Buccs team that finished 24-4 overall last year, went 11-1 in the CCC and was district runnerup.
Graduating off that team were pitcher Brooke Gostomsky and catcher Arianna Richards, who both play for Defiance College.
The Lady Buccs return a strong group, including seniors Ashley Cecil, Lexie Long, Addison Metz, Kara Schaffer and Justice Warner; juniors Emma Dammeyer, Sarah Hubbard and Taylor Ray; and sophomores Makenna Gostomsky and Chelsea Ford;
“We look to have a strong season as the core of the team returns with a very solid senior class to lead the way,” Heitkamp said. “Obviously filling the shoes of Gostomsky and Richards will be a challenge, but the girls are working hard.
“My hope is that we are in the running to win the league, however the post season is always where we strive to be playing at the top of our game.”
Brent New returns for his 20th season as Houston softball coach.
The Lady Wildcats finished 21-10 last year and 10-2 in the SCAL, sharing the league title and winning a D-IV district title.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Jenna Jarrett and Katlyn Riffell; junior catcher Sarah Monnier, who batted .521 last year and junior second baseman Rebekah New; and sophomores Emilee Foster, who had a 1.08 ERA in 13 innings and outfielder Addie White.
Also back are pitcher Brooklyn Felver and third baseman Olivia Bowser, who had a .429 average in seven at bats.
“Freshman Allie Foster will be helping us right away,” New said. “She can play many positions. Junior Madison Stahler and sophomores Judith Gillem and Cheyenne Juillerat should get time as well.”
New is optimistic about the season.
“We are going to be replacing what was one of the best senior classes we ever had,” New said. “So, it will be a very different team than last year. The kids will be ready though and they are going to be up for the challenge.
“We have players who can play multiple positions, so that will allow us to adjust to situations if we need to. Our schedule is very tough again, but that will only help us as we progress through the season.”
New hopes to finish in the top half of the SCAL.
Veteran coach Bill Booth returns for his 30th season as coach.
The Lady Cavaliers were 12-11 last season, including 4-8 in the NWCC.
Graduating off that team was Allie Hall.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Camille Odle and Sidney Chapman; juniors Hailey Wick, Lauren Larger, Amanda Titterington, Maddy McFarland and Brogan McIver; and sophomores Grace Brandt, Carly Edwards and Grace Monnin.
“My season’s goal is to improve on last year’s record and win a league championship,” Booth said.
He feels like the Cavaliers have the team to do just that.
Michaela Nenninger returns as Miami East softball coach.
She will be assisted by Jesse Nenninger and Stephanie Kraska.
Miami East finished 4-17 overall last year and 4-8 in the CCC.
Graduating off that teaam were Meagan Caudill, Jenna Patton, Megan Pettit, and Kati Runner.
Seeing time on the mound this year will be junior Emily Thimmes, sophomore Samantha Urban, and a freshman Paige Lawson.
Handling catching duties will be Alyssa Francis and Urban.
“They have both stepped up with their leadership, knowledge, and expectations,” Nenninger said.
Competing for time in the infield are freshman Emily Adkins, Sophie Jacomet and Lawson, sophomore Allie Shore and juniors Anna Jacomet and Thimmes.
“I see a lot of great potential and leadership in my infield,” Nenninger said. “All of these girls provide great strengths and utility to the strategic game.”
“My outfield is young,” Nenninger said. “We will have a senior (Emily Hawkins) as a great leader. She originally helped infield out last year and will need her knowledge and ability in the outfield.
“The other outfielders have been working extremely hard. Possible players to take the role would be Julia Dickman and Ashley Covault both being sophomores.
“I trust that the girls will continue to grow and work hard as a team in order to make this season a successful one. We have come a long way in the past two years; I’m excited to see where they take us. Our goal for the season is to take care of business; become smarter base runners, smarter batters, and have fun.”
Mark Gibson returns as Newton coach.
The Indians pitchers will include junior Kristen Rappold and sophomore Erin Norman, while handling the catching duties will be juniors Haley Pack and Maddi Weaver.
The infielders will include juniors Kacie Tackett and Kylee Fisher and freshman Baily Chaney and Kara Chaney; while seeing time in the outfield will be juniors Britney Oburn, Weaver and Norman; and freshman Brooke Deeter and Breanna Ends.
“Our goal is to follow the principles in our program each day (Trust, Relentless, Integrity, Be Selfless, Energy) and to be the best team on the field regardless of who is in the other dugout,” Gibson said. “We will focus on the process of each game, not the outcome of the season. Our belief is, if we do the things we can control correctly and to the best of our ability the end result will take care of itself.”
Michelle Muhlenkamp is back for her fourth season as coach.
Russia was 18-9 last season and shared the SCAL title with Houston.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Maddie Borchers, Maria Herron and Katie Swartz; juniors Lexi Monnin, Grace Saunders, Lauren Monnin, Kylee Sherman and Claudia Counts; and sophomores Jenna Cordonnier and Shea Borchers.
Three other key players back are junior Mishaylee O’Riley and sophomores Kennedie Goubeaux and Savannah Albers.
“There is a lot of buzz around the Russia softball program this year,” Muhlenkamp said. “The coaches and girls have set very high expectations and have worked very hard in the off season to set ourselves up for success this season. The coaching staff believes that we have an extraordinary group of dedicated, hardworking, and talented girls. We are very excited to get this season rolling.”
Muhlenkamp is hoping for another big year in the SCAL.
“Last year we tied for the Shelby County League with Houston,” she said. “There is some very tough competition every year in the league. This year we are looking to take care of business in all county games to once again have the title of league champions. We have some amazing senior leadership this year and they will be our driving force.”