Crystal Fish (formerly Krebs) is back in charge of the Lewis-Palmer girls softball program and she is excited about the team's prospects of returning to the postseason.
“We'll get together and go over our team goals and season goals and I will leave it up to the girls how far they want to go,” Fish said. “A lot of it has to do with team unity and team chemistry.”
The Rangers went 8-11-1 last year under Greg Powell as Fish worked as his assistant. She was the head coach of the program for the four seasons (2008 trough 2011), guiding Lewis-Palmer to the Class 4A state semifinals in 2010 - its best finish in school history.
The Rangers have arguably one of the best all-around players in the Pikes Peak region in senior Syd Henthorn - a former player with Woodland Park. Henthorn batted .388 in 2012 and is expected to play shortstop and handle the pitching duties along with senior Barb Nigon (2-1 in a limited role last season).
“I think we're capable of going all the way,” Henthorn said. “We can totally win state. All the girls are dedicated and focused on going to state this year.”
Third baseman Melanie Farmer (.426) will be the team's only four-year letter winner. She was a member of the Rangers 2010 state Final Four team.
“We have great pitchers again this year and I think we can definitely take state,” Farmer said. “We have to stay focused and determined and play our hardest all the time.”
Other top returners are senior first baseman Brenna Pfahler, senior second baseman Sami Cook (.261) and senior catcher/outfielder Liz Gregory (.281), and sophomore catcher/outfielder Cory Holden.
Among the top newcomers is sophomore utility player Maddie Paschall.
The Thunder has been among the most consistent teams in the Pikes Peak region in recent years, having advanced to three consecutive 4A state tournaments. Last year it won its first-ever state tournament game.
“Our goal stays the same each year,” said Discovery Canyon coach Tanya Ramsay. “The competition is definitely stiff in (the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) this year. We're working to improve every day. That way we can reach our goals in the end.”
Ramsay returns four starters from her squad that went 19-5 in 2012. The group includes junior pitcher McKenzie Surface, who went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA. Surface also manned first base and belted .389 with as team-leading six home runs to go along with 30 RBIs.
“I'm excited for Kenzie,” Ramsay said. “She's been in the weight room. She throws hard. She's consistent.”
The other returning starters are junior first baseman/outfielder/pitcher Emily Selby (.298), junior catcher Molly Turner (.241) and junior third baseman Destiny Lackey (.350).
Three other varsity players who also return will step into starting sports this season; sophomore shortstop Kailee Clark, sophomore first baseman Hannah Wirtjes and junior second baseman Emily Robinett.
“These kids learned from our seniors last season and now they're ready to step up,” Ramsay said. “We're excited to see what they can do.”
The Thunder opens its season at home Aug. 26 against PPAC opponent Falcon.
The Bears have all the ingredients to again be a top contender in the PPAC, as well as one of the best teams in the region. That's because they return eight starters off of a club that went 16-7 and advanced the school's first-ever state tournament.
“I was pretty happy with how the girls stepped up,” said fourth-year Bears coach Randy Gillette.
Gillette's team has a nice blend of speed and power on offense, and gritty determination on defense. The Bears batted .373 as a team last season, stole 72 bases in 81 attempts and had a solid .930 fielding percentage.
“We had a great hitting team and defensively we held our own,” said Gillette, who also was the head coach at Lewis-Palmer for nine years before turning the reins over to Crystal Fish. “
The eight returning starters consist of senior first baseman McKenzie Brummond (.269), senior catcher/utility Taylor Klee (.441), senior center fielder Libby Acker (.413), junior left-handed second baseman Ciara Richardson (.442, team-leading 38 hits), junior pitcher Madysen Kearns (.400), junior catcher/shortstop Jennifer Tarwater (.408), junior right fielder Jennifer Slaughter (.442) and sophomore catcher/third baseman Julie Schroeder (.250).
Kearns shared pitching duties last year with Katie Smith, posting a 9-4 record with 71 strikeouts in 83 innings.
The Bears opened their season April 20 at Pueblo West. They host Woodland Park Thursday at 4 p.m. They don't play their first PPAC game until after Labor Day.
THE CLASSICAL ACADEMY
The Titans return several starters and key reserves off a team that went 3-12 in 2012.
“I'm hoping we can leapfrog from where we were,” said TCA second-year coach Scott Dufaud. “It looks like we'll have lot of improvement in various areas.”
Though the win total might not show it, the Titans were a vastly improved team from previous seasons. They were competitive in at least half of their games and remained upbeat.
“I had a lot of coaches come up to me after games and tell me how much improved we were,” Dufaud said.
The Titans played in a Colorado Springs parks and recreation league this summer and won more than half of their 26 games, according to Dufaud.
Senior Skyeler Sheveland, the team's top pitcher last season, is expected to be utilized in other roles. She could also see time at shortstop, third base, outfield and even catcher. She batted .410 in 2012.
“I have a lot of girls who have come into the freshman class who are pretty talented,” Dufaud said. “Some of them are pitchers.”
Freshman Emma Thompson, a product of the Tri-Lakes Little League softball program, is expected to take over as the Titans' No. 1 pitcher.
“I'm looking for big things from her,” Dufaud said.
Among the other top returning players from last season are junior outfielder Melissa Doole (.333), sophomore catcher Madison Cooper (.320), sophomore first baseman Abigail Elmendorf and senior left fielder Sarah St. Louis.
Also expected to contribute are returning seniors Hannah Lindblom, Janine Valenzuela and Eliza Hamilton, and sophomores Hailey Popovich and Abigail Groteluschen.
The Titans use El Pomar as their home field. They practice on a dirt and gravel field at the high school.
“We picked hundreds of pounds off of it this summer,” Dufaud said with a smile. It's a pretty good field now. We're excited.”