GREENFIELD — For Greenfield-Central’s softball team, the 2022 season was a mixed bag of both a strong freshman class, and an even stronger senior class.
This time around, the Cougars are set to rely almost fully on their young talent.
“It’s going to be a thing where every game we’re probably going to start seven underclassmen,” Greenfield-Central head coach Jason Stewart said. “We’re going to be overlooked a lot because of that, and I’m fine with that. I know what these kids have the potential to do, so it’s pretty exciting for me for that reason.”
A young Greenfield-Central roster will be tasked with replacing the production lost from their top three hitters, Megan Wineinger, Ella Redman and Morgan Hornaday, along with other key seniors.
Wineinger led the Cougars with a .506 average, and nine stolen bases, Redman led the team in RBIs with 37 and batted .459, and Hornaday added a .424 average and 19 RBI. After returning from injury and only appearing in nine games, another senior, Ellie Ewald, tied Redman for the team lead in home runs with four.
“I think we have the kids that can do it. We’ve got a very good group of freshmen coming in. A lot of those freshmen from last year got their feet wet in terms of playing on the varsity level,” Stewart said. “While it’s hard to say that you’re going to just run in and replace .400 level hitters left and right, I think we’ve got some kids with the skill level that they have, we’re going to be able to put up some runs.”
To try and replace that production, the Cougars will trot out a lineup made up almost entirely of underclassmen. Last season, six freshmen appeared in more than 10 games for the Cougars, with four seeing starting time.
Josie White led the now sophomore group with a .421 average and 20 RBIs over 23 games played. Addison Herrin batted over .300, and Makenna Rankins appeared in 21 games and hit .241. Leileanna Faitele, who was primed to be a big piece of the Cougars lineup, is set to miss the season due to injury.
According to Stewart, getting playing time in last year’s 8-2 sectional loss to Mt. Vernon will be huge for that group entering this season.
“It’s big for them. It’s an atmosphere that you can’t replicate. I don’t care how many big-time travel tournaments that you’ve played in, until you’ve played a sectional game under the lights against a rival opponent, it’s a whole other animal,” Stewart said. “It worked out well for us getting a lot of these young kids that experience out of the way, so they’ll be able to tackle it a little better when it comes up again here in May.”
Another sophomore set to help lead the Cougars is pitcher Madysen Herbert. A 5.02 ERA and injuries led to an up-and-down season for Herbert, who finished the season with a 9-2 record.
This time around, Stewart is looking for more consistency from his No. 1 pitcher as she heads into the season healthy and with a year of experience under her belt.
“We’re looking for Madysen to be our No. 1 this year. She’s got a lot of potential. The thing with her this year is just going to be her consistency. She showed flashes of being a big-time No. 1, and then had games where she struggled last year,” Stewart said. “But that was a freshman, and she also dealt with some injuries last season, so we’re looking for her to take a big step forward.”
Helping take some of the pressure off of Herbert on the mound though will be the return of senior Camille Burelison.
The team’s No. 1 pitcher two seasons ago is back after missing last season.
“One thing that is really going to help us is Camille has returned,” Stewart said. “She’s going to give us a lot of depth pitching and also defensively in the outfield.”
To go along with the strong returning sophomore class, the Cougars return seniors Olivia Roberts and Faith Butler. Roberts hit .358 with three home runs and 24 RBIs, and Butler was the No. 2 pitcher behind Herbert. Another senior, Lilly Stewart who batted .317 for the Cougars last season, will miss the year due to injury.
Rounding out the Cougars lineup is another strong freshman class. Two will be in the Cougars’ starting lineup from the jump, and a third will see playing time as often as possible.
Savannah Riall will be the team’s starting catcher, and Kristen Wineinger will play second base, while Stewart looks for ways to get Charlotte Riehle into the lineup.
“My goals never change. When you build your program to a certain level, you don’t look for excuses like ‘we’re young this year,’ or ‘we lost big kids.’ You keep grinding towards what you’re aiming at,” Stewart said. “Our goals are to win 20 games, finish top three in the (Hoosier Heritage Conference), and to have a shot at winning a sectional title.”
2023 Greenfield-Central Softball Schedule
March 25;vs. Zionsville;11 a.m., 1 p.m.
March 27;vs. Lapel;5:30 p.m.
March 28;vs. Hamilton Southeastern;5:30 p.m.
March 30;vs. Richmond;5:30 p.m.
April 4;vs. Indianapolis Scecina;5:30 p.m.
April 5;vs. Danville;5:30 p.m.
April 7;vs. Madison-Grant;5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
April 10;at Noblesvile;6 p.m.
April 12;at Westfield;6 p.m.
April 17;vs. Delta;5:30 p.m.
April 19;at Elwood;5:30 p.m.
April 20;at Rushville;5:30 p.m.
April 21;vs. Indianapolis Lutheran;5:30 p.m.
April 26;vs. Yorktown;6 p.m.
April 28;at Mt. Vernon;7 p.m.
May 1;at New Castle;5:30 p.m.
May 3;at Shenandoah;5:30 p.m.
May 4;at New Palestine;5:30 p.m.
May 8;at Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter;5:30 p.m.
May 9;vs. Pendleton Heights;5:30 p.m.
May 11;at Lawrence Central;6 p.m.
May 13;vs. Seymour;9 a.m.
May 13;vs. Frankton;10:30 a.m.
May 13;vs. Warren Central 1:30 p.m.
May 15;vs. Shelbyville;7:30 p.m.
May 18;vs. Carmel;5:30 p.m.
May 19;at Lawrence North;6 p.m.