Eastern Hancock

Head coach: Sue Anderson, 2nd season

2014: 18-8 overall, 7-1 Mid-Hoosier Conference; lost, 5-2, to Union County in 2A Sectional 41 semifinal

Varsity roster (with grade/position): Madison Walton (12/IF), Nakayla Shelton (12/OF), Megan Boyer (11/IF), Jordan Pierson (11/OF), Darby Shaw (11/P), Brooke Walden (10/IF), Kaysi Gilbert (10/IF), Peyton West (10/C), Reagan Hunt (10/IF), Caitlin Richmond (10/P/IF), Savannah Patterson (10/OF/IF)

Story continues below gallery

Leading the way: Darby Shaw and Brooke Walden comprised a pair of two-way threats in leading the Royals to 18 wins in 2014. On the mound, they totaled a 13-7 record and 2.97 ERA. With bat in hand, Shaw hit .403. while Walden hit .427 and collected a team-high 44 RBI. Shaw returns this season as a junior, while Walden is a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Caitlin Richmond, almost exclusively a pitcher as a freshman, picked up the Royals’ other five wins, going 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA.

Outlook: In addition to Shaw, Walden and Richmond, Eastern Hancock has plenty of talent. Junior centerfielder Jordan Pierson topped the club with a .533 average, to go along with 16 stolen bases and seven triples. Sophomore catcher Peyton West hit .453 last spring with a team-best 16 doubles. Kaysi Gilbert and Savannah Patterson, two more returning sophomores, batted .360 and .371, respectively. Overall, it’s a group capable of challenging for the program’s third sectional title of the decade, adding to their 2010 and 2013 championships.

Leading off: The Royals will host a scrimmage against Mt. Vernon on Tuesday, then open the regular season at home against Cambridge City on April 8.


Head coach: Jason Stewart, 10th season

2014: 16-12 overall, 0-7 Hoosier Heritage Conference; lost, 4-3, to Mt. Vernon in 4A Sectional 9 quarterfinal

Varsity roster (with grade/position): Brie Whitaker (12/2B), Darcie Huber (11/P), Deena Miller (11/OF), Katie Addison (11/1B), Erika Knapp (11/C), Madeline Gibson (11/OF), Callie Wheeler (11/OF), Morganne Denny (10/3B), Makayla Durick (10/P/1B), Michaela Ballman (10/P/1B), Jessie Brunk (10/OF), Codey Miller (10/SS), Jenna Young (10/UT), Casey McDaniel (10/OF), Anna Evans (10/2B), Brittany Wheeler (9/OF), Maria Kienga (9/C), Sydney Williams (9/P)

Leading the way: Among a plethora of underclassmen to see extensive playing time last season, Morganne Denny’s prep debut was most impressive. “Morganne’s a monster,” coach Jason Stewart said of the third baseman who hit .511 as a freshman. “I’ve been pretty blessed with some of the hitters I’ve had over the last few years, with Tori (Cuebas), Sami (Frazier) and Ashley (Whitaker), and Morganne is way ahead of the pace they were on, as far as developing as a hitter heading into her sophomore year. She’s going to be special.”

Outlook: The Cougars are confident coming off a challenging 2014. Almost exclusively commanded by freshmen and sophomores, the Cougars managed to gather 16 victories. “For us to do what we were able to do last year, with not much experience and having people miss as much (due to injury) as we did and still have a winning record, it brings a lot of optimism,” Stewart said. “This is the first time in a couple years that I’ve really went into it thinking that we have a very good chance of winning a sectional title. We’ve got the talent.” … Freshmen Brittany Wheeler (outfielder), Sydney Williams (utility) and Maria Kihega (catcher/corner infielder) will see varsity action, according to Stewart. … Darcie Huber, a junior, returns as the ace pitcher. She went 10-7 a year ago with a 2.31 ERA in 97 innings, while sophomores Makayla Durick and Michaela Ballman combined for 77 innings and a 6-5 record. “We’ll throw (Huber) in all the big games,” Stewart said. “She’s been looking really good this spring, and I’m excited to see what she’s going to do when she gets out there.” … Huber (.415), Durick (.378), Erika Knapp (.425) and Deena Miller (.417) join Denny as plate leaders. … New Castle captured the 4A Sectional 9 crown a year ago, breaking Pendleton Heights’ three-year streak. “New Castle lost three really good seniors,” Stewart said of the Trojans’ graduated standouts. “Pendleton Heights lost a lot. They graduated seven seniors, lost their pitching. Mt. Vernon lost a lot, lost their pitching. So, I think it’s going to be a little bit different this year. I don’t think there’s a team up there that has more talent than us. There’s going to be some good teams there, but I think we can easily compete with anyone there.” 

Leading off: The Cougars will visit New Palestine for a scrimmage on Tuesday, then open the regular season at home against Speedway on April 6.

Mt. Vernon

Head coach: Veronica Kirby, 1st season

2014: 9-17 overall, 3-4 Hoosier Heritage Conference; lost, 9-6, to Richmond in 4A Sectional 9 semifinal

Varsity roster (with grade/position): Tracy Gordon (12/IF), Caitlin Lindman (12/OF), Mackenzie Loehr (12/OF), Kylie Lyons (12/C), Sadie Baugh (11/OF), Morgan Cappalletti (11/C/OF), Kristin Connors (11/IF/P), Jessica Flood (11/IF), Lauren Montgomery (11/IF), Morgan Moss (11/IF), Sara Pridgen (11/P), Jennah Ruddick (11/OF), Savanna Schultz (11/IF), Karly Van Slyke (11/IF), Mackenzie McCann (10/C)

Leading the way: Veronica Kirby takes over as head coach for the retired Mike McGill. “It’s been challenging, but exciting at the same time,” said Kirby, formerly the Marauders’ JV coach. “Sometimes my nerves get the best of me, but I’m really excited about it.” McGill’s teams won sectional crowns in 2012 and 2013 but dropped to 9-17 last season. Kirby is confident of a return to prominence. The Mt. Vernon graduate and former player at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was part of the Marauders’ Class 2A state championship in 2000 under coach Stacy Bricker. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be,” Kirby said. “So, it’s awesome for me to be able come back as head coach and put my passion back into the program. I had a blast when I played, so I want the girls to experience the same thing.”

Outlook: Between them, Ambry Turpen and Ellie Balbach held down the Marauders’ pitching spot for the better part of five years, but with Turpen graduating last season, following Balbach’s departure in 2013, Mt. Vernon turns to juniors Kristin Connors and Sara Pridgen, who combined to throw 18 innings of spot duty last season. Conners also hit .366 while manning the infield as full-time varsity. Pridgen saw action in two varsity games. … At the plate, Mt. Vernon is looking to replace, among others, the graduated Rachel Davis, one of the area’s top home run hitters during her career. Senior Kylie Lyons (.333 last year) is slated as a starter for the fourth straight season. The catcher’s “leadership is going to be huge,” Kirby said, “which will make her offensive presence in the lineup even that much more important.” … The Marauders feature 10 juniors to go along with four seniors and a sophomore. “We have some great senior leadership and a large junior class that is really willing to work and put that effort into every day,” Kirby said. “I see us only building from this.”

Leading off: The Marauders will visit Eastern Hancock for a scrimmage Tuesday then open the regular season at home against Cathedral on April 9.

New Palestine

Head coach: Ed Marcum, 12th season

2014: 24-4 overall, 7-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference; lost, 1-0, to Franklin in 4A Sectional 13 championship

Varsity roster (with grade/position): Brittany Duncan (12/CF), Kaylin McMurray (12/P), Adie Lorsung (12/RF), Tara Morey (11/UT), Issy Hoyt (11/3B), Casey Lehman (11/C), Abby O’Connor (RF/11), Madison Whitaker (10/UT), Mary Crumlin (10/1B), Abby Davis (10/UT), Elisha Barker (10/P), Ashley Prange (9/UT)

Leading the way: It’s difficult to locate a singular star from a lineup that includes five returners that hit over .400 last spring – plus a pair of pitching studs – but Adie Lorsung consistently gave opponents fits. The 2014 Hancock County Player of the Year hit .536, scored 39 runs and collected seven home runs, 17 doubles and 44 RBI – all team-highs. The senior outfielder was a Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association All-State Second Team selection, and Lorsung will play for Indiana State in the fall.

Outlook: Third baseman Issy Hoyt (.427), utility Tara Morey (.429), catcher Casey Lehman (.438) and centerfielder Brittany Duncan (.449) add to a hitter’s row that has few apparent weak spots. “I’ve got Adie going to Indiana State, Issy is committed to Purdue, and I’ve got several that are close to committing to other D-Is, so I’m really excited,” coach Ed Marcum said. “And they’re all a bunch of good kids. They’ve really turned up the work ethic, and I think that’s something I’m most proud of going into this year, the winter we’ve had.” … Hoyt hit six home runs and posted 41 RBI last season, second to Lorsung in both categories. … On the mound, workhorses Kaylin McMurray (14-3, 1.80 ERA) and Elisha Barker (10-1, 1.71 ERA) are poised for more mostly unhittable success. They tossed all but 5.1 of New Palestine’s 183.2 total innings. … In a 1-0, sectional title loss to Franklin last season, the Dragons were held to five singles by the Grizzly Cubs’ Olivia Paszek, who has graduated. McMurray went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and a lone, seventh-inning run.

Leading off: The Dragons will host a scrimmage against Greenfield-Central on Tuesday then open the regular season at New Castle on Thursday.