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Softball Preview: New coach, same goals for Eastern Hancock

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Head coach: Sue Anderson, first season

2013: 24-7 overall, 7-1 Mid-Hoosier Conference co-champ. Beat Northeastern 5-0 in 2A Sectional 41 championship game, beat Ritter 2-1 in regional championship game, lost 11-0 to eventual state champ Scecina in semistate semifinal.

Last sectional title: 2013.

Key losses: Hancock County Co-Player of the Year C Savannah Blevins (.521/8 HR/33 RBI), All-County  2B Tori Bednarski (.437/33 RBI) and All-County Honorable Mention SS Erica Truitt (.426). Head coach Jack Heiden retired and was replaced by Sue Anderson, a former Anderson University player and  Morristown head coach.

Outlook: Despite the graduation of Blevins (Franklin College), perhaps the best hitter in program history, the Royals should have enough returning skill to contend for a second straight regional title. … All-County sophomore Darby Shaw (12-4/1.40 ERA/110 IP/84K) returns as the Royals’ ace. Shaw, who will also play first base, hit .398 last season as a freshman. Junior P Peyton Neisler tossed 91.1 innings in 2013, but she is not playing this year. Freshmen Caitlin Richmond (also 3B) and Brooke Walden (1B) will back up Shaw on the mound. …  Five seniors will suit up for EH: All-County Honorable Mention OF Allison Dickey (.456/28 R/13 SB), SS Emily Reger (.342/15 SB), LF Skyler Overleese (.310), OF Allison Turner (.409) and LF Bekah Moore. … Dickey and All-County Honorable Mention sophomore OF Jordan Pierson (.426/38 R/14 SB), who led off last season, are the Royals’ top returning full-time hitters. Juniors 1B Maddy Walton (.438) and RF Nakayla Shelton (.364) also fared well last year in more limited duty. … Freshmen C/OF Savannah Patterson, C/IF Peyton West, 2B Reagan Hunt and 2B/SS Kaysi Gilbert round out the EH contingent.

Anderson says: “My expectation for this program is to, first and foremost, get better each and every day. We are building an environment of excellence in our program. This starts with us putting the team first.”

“The girls have been such a breath of fresh air, and have really come into this season looking to get better with every practice. They have accepted me from the first day and we are working very well together. They are getting used to toughness of the practices. We are implementing a lot of sport performance into what we are doing. Our seniors have done a great job of setting the tone for us in this regard. Their mentality is contagious and they have set the bar for the underclassmen. The girls have been like a sponge so far, trying to soak up as much information and instruction that they can.”

“As a team, we fully expect to be highly competitive in every game. As far as team goals, we have been working very hard to continue to improve on the successes that the Lady Royals achieved last year. For us, this starts with winning a conference championship, a sectional championship and then on and on. We feel that we have the talent, cohesiveness and desire to be a top tiered 2A program. Coming into the season ranked in the top 10 is nice, but we want to be the best team that we can be at the end of the season.”

 “I can assure of one thing, our girls, especially our seniors, are not satisfied with a semistate loss, they want more. They understand that they need to build on the successes they achieved last year to build on their legacies and leave their mark on EHHS. We will continue to work very hard as a team to be as successful as we can be.”

“Shaw is a very experienced pitcher for her age. She is challenging for opposing batters and has a lot a movement on her pitches. One of her strengths is keeping batters off balanced and guessing. We look for her to continue to grow on her success from last year and get better. We are also very blessed to have Caitlin Richmond, who … has a lot of movement with her pitches. She is developing into a very strong pitcher for us and will see time during the season. Brooke Walden is also going to be helping us out some, as well.”

Opening Day: The Royals visit Randolph Southern on Wednesday.

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