Team: Eastern Hancock
Coach: Sue Anderson, third year
2015 record: 19-5
2015 results: 8-1 in Mid-Hoosier Conference, lost 5-2 to Cambridge City Lincoln in the sectional championship
Story continues below gallery
Key Losses: Madison Walton, Peyton Neisler
Jordan Pierson, Senior, CF
Kaysi Gilbert, Junior, 2B
Brooke Walden, Junior, 3B
Peyton West, Junior, C
Darby Shaw, Junior, P
Savannah Patterson, Junior, LF
Micah Black, Sophomore, IB
Reagan Hunt, Junior, RF
Bree Ashby, Sophomore, SS
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Preseason polls usually have little to do with the outcome of a season — Eastern Hancock knows that.
After not receiving a single vote in this season’s way-too-early poll, the Royals, despite losing just two seniors from a team that fell one game short of 20 wins, are set to prove why they belong in the conversation.
Madison Walton (.385) and Peyton Neisler (.368) are gone, but 10 players with at least 15 games of varsity experience return for Eastern Hancock, which hit .425 and scored 204 runs (8.5 runs per game) as a team last season.
Needless to say, Eastern Hancock, which pounded 293 hits last year, produces at the plate. One of those sluggers, junior catcher Peyton West, who finished at .481 and was second on the team with 14 doubles, said the team’s main focus last season was to become what it eventually did — a “hitting” team.
“Once we started becoming successful at the plate, it became contagious throughout the whole lineup,” she said. “We looked forward to going up there and winning the at-bat.
“I definitely worked on my pitch selection and not being so anxious in the box.”
Junior left fielder Savannah Patterson, who ripped three home runs last year added, “Our batting order has been very strong in the past, and I believe it will be better this year.”
It all begins at the top of the lineup, though, with sneaky fast leadoff hitter Jordan Pierson (.494, 32 runs, 16 stolen bases).
“She (Pierson) is a great player who we can count on to get us going,” West said.
With her back, the Royals should have no problem matching last season’s offensive output — or surpassing it.
Junior Kaysi Gilbert showed great speed on the basepaths, as well, finishing with 10 stolen bases. She also added 31 hits, 23 RBIs and three home runs.
On the mound, senior Darby Shaw looks to put an exclamation point on a solid career at Eastern Hancock. In 2015, Shaw went 8-2 with a 1.17 earned run average. She also collected 69 strikeouts.
And being overlooked at the beginning of the season really doesn’t bother West, Patterson or the rest of the Royals, either.
“When I found out our ranking, I was like alright let’s show them what we’re made of,” West said. “But I’m confident in my team, I don’t need someone else saying we’re good.”
They’ll regret not giving the Royals a second look for their vote.”
Playing in the final month of the season is all that matters.
“We still want to be playing in June and win it all,” Patterson said.
Eastern Hancock begins its season with a rematch of the sectional final against Cambridge City Lincoln on April 5.
April 5: at Cambridge City Lincoln, 5:30 p.m.
April 6: at Randolph Southern, 5:30 p.m.
April 7: vs. Hauser, 5:30 p.m.
April 8: at Shelbyville, 5:30 p.m.
April 11: at Heritage Christian, 5:30 p.m.
April 12: at Knightstown, 5:30 p.m.
April 15: vs. Irvington Prep, 5:30 p.m.
April 16: at Tri, 10 a.m.
April 19: vs. Morristown, 5:30 p.m.
April 20: at Daleville, 5:30 p.m.
April 21: vs. Indian Creek, 5:30 p.m.
April 22: vs. New Palestine, 5:30 p.m.
April 25: at Alexandria Monroe, 5:30 p.m.
April 26: vs. Northeastern, 5:30 p.m.
April 27: vs. Wes-Del, 5:30 p.m.
April 28: at Triton Central, 5:30 p.m.
May 2: vs. Southwestern, 5:30 p.m.
May 4: vs. Frankton, 5:30 p.m.
May 6: at Centerville, 5:30 p.m.
May 7: at Lapel, 10 a.m.
May 9: vs. Shenandoah, 5:30 a.m.
May 10: at Waldron, 5:30 p.m.
May 12: vs. South Decatur, 5:30 p.m.
May 16: vs. Hagerstown, 5:30 p.m.
May 19: at Edinburgh, 5:30 p.m.
May 20: at North Decatur, 5:30 p.m.