Eight seniors means depth and experience as Lady Pacer softball team readies for the season

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Switzerland County Lady Pacer varsity softball coach Steven Konkle can’t help but feel optimistic when he scans this year’s softball team – where eight seniors and 33 total players will provide depth and leadership.

But even with all of the returnees, the Lady Pacer coach still feels that his team needs to keep working hard as they prepare to kick off the season this Saturday at home with a doubleheader against Henryville.

“We’re hopeful for improvement over last season,” Coach Konkle said. “Offense is going to be a big key for us. We’ll be strong defensively, but we’ve got to score runs. That’s what we’re focusing on as we get ready to start the season.”

Along with the eight seniors, this year’s Lady Pacer team also boasts five juniors and some key returning sophomores. With 11 freshmen coming out for the team, Switzerland County has also added a freshman team, and it will be coached by Alan Konkle.

“The freshman team is going to get six to eight games, which we think is a real positive for the future of our program,” Steven Konkle said. “It’s going to give those girls the chance to play at the high school level and get ready to help us next year.”

Switzerland County’s varsity team is filled with returnees, where most key positions already have a veteran in place.

At the corners, senior first baseman Courtney Cole and senior third baseman Rachel Rodgers are back for another year; while two outfield spots are held down by senior Melisa Raisor in leftfield and senior Morgan Ross in rightfield.

Senior catcher Tanya Sefton returns to spark both the defense and offense; while most of the pitching duties will fall to sophomore Becky Turner – who logged quality innings last year as a freshman.

Coach Konkle, along with jayvee coach Rob Daugherty and assistant Fred Ross, are focusing on finding a replacement for graduated centerfielder Sara Craig; but the staff feels that there are several outstanding candidates who can fill that role.

“We’ve got a lot of outstanding defensive players who can handle the position,” Coach Konkle said. “But we’re looking for someone to step forward and provide more offense.”

At shortstop, senior Megan McCarty saw some duty there last year and will hold down the spot this season; while at second base seniors Amber Smith and Emilee Waldron are battling to replace the graduated Ashley Bright.

“Amber’s health has been an issue, so we’re looking at her and Emilee rotating to start the season, and we have a lot of confidence in both of them,” Steven Konkle said. “Early in the year, there may be games when we have our eight seniors on the field at the same time, along with Becky. It’s a very strong team.”

Although the Lady Pacers suffered 11 losses last year, the Switzerland County coaching staff reminds everyone that six of those losses were by two runs or less – making the need for more offense a priority.

“It’s not really a defensive position that we’re focusing on,” the coach said. “We’re focusing on offense. Defensively we think we can hold teams to two or three runs a game; and we’re going to try and score four or five runs a game. We’re going to be aggressive on the bases, and we’ll try and invent some runs when we can.”

The Lady Pacer coach said that he hopes to put pressure on opposing teams to make key plays at important times, forcing errors and creating scoring opportunities.

“Bunting is going to be big for us,” the coach hinted.

Steven Konkle sees a strong ORVC this year, with several teams having key players back. He noted that the conference should be deep with pitching; and that whoever wins the conference title is going to have to beat some excellent pitching to do that.

“Southwestern is probably the favorite in the conference because they are the defending conference and sectional champions,” Coach Konkle said. “They have outstanding pitching, but Milan will also be strong. They’ve got a lot of seniors, too, and they have a great pitcher. Jac-Cen-Del is always fundamentally sound, so they will be a factor.”

Steven Konkle said that he expects Rising Sun to surprise some people in the conference; and although South Ripley and Madison Shawe are rebuilding with young players, he noted that both teams have some talent that will play a role in the conference race.

The Lady Pacers will also be on the road this season, beginning in April when Switzerland County has three home games and 12 games away from Lady Pacer Field. When May arrives, the Lady Pacers will have five games at home and four on the road, with the sectional also away from home.

An added feature to this year’s schedule is that Switzerland County will also be participating in a four-team tournament at Charlestown right before the sectional, which will feature two teams from larger schools, which should provide a challenge for the Lady Pacers.

“It’s a really tough schedule, and we play some really good teams,” Coach Konkle said. “But playing good teams is what makes you a better team, so we look forward to the challenge.”