The primary goal for the Marion High School softball team this season is to build on the foundation of success it started to construct last season.
Under the consistent coaching of Jill Hudson — with a focus on fundamentals and a positive outlook to get her players to believe in themselves — the Warriors improved by four wins from the previous season to post a 6-14 record.
With a lineup featuring seven seniors, the Warriors are looking to earn victories at a rate well above .500.
“This is the most seniors we’ve had on any team,” senior outfielder Jordan Harper said. “We all work together well. We definitely have some potential.”
Success for the Warriors may start on the pitching rubber. Senior pitchers Alex Cain and Raelene Allen combined to start every game for the Warriors last season. The contrast in the two pitchers’ styles keeps opposing teams off balance.
Cain is the resident flamethrower, who can pull the string on a change-up, curve, or rise ball to baffle hitters.
“She understands the mechanics of pitching,” Hudson said.
Allen’s talent lies in painting the corners of the plate and changing speeds from pitch to pitch to keep batters guessing.
Joining the two seniors are sophomores Elizabeth Goentzel and Chelsea Voth who pitched for the junior varsity team last season. Freshman Megan Richmond may also see time as pitcher.
“She can throw hard,” Hudson said of Richmond.
Offense will also be a team strength. Harper and sophomore JayDee Schafers progressed hitting at the top of the Warrior lineup last season. Hudson will look to Cain and fellow senior Erin Brown, who transferred to Marion, to provide power in the middle of the lineup.
Seniors Sarah Guetersloh and Shelby Percel and junior Annie Whitaker could pepper the field with line drives further down in the Marion lineup.
Through the first week of practice, Hudson has worked with the Warrior hitters to build the repetition to make hitting automatic.
“We’re breaking bad habits,” Hudson said.
Other bad habits the Warriors are looking to shatter are in the field. Defense, especially on ground balls, was a weak spot for Marion last season. Hudson continues to drill the basics: looking the ball all the way into the glove, receiving it with two hands, cleanly transferring the ball to the throwing hand, and then quickly throwing to the correct base.
“Fundamentally we got a lot better,” Cain said of the team’s progress last season.
Although Hudson pegged Brown as the team’s primary catcher, the Warriors are looking to solidify the middle of the field defense. Brooke Johnson was the team’s most consistent fielder at shortstop last season and she was lost to graduation. Allen and Cain both saw innings at second base, but Cain could play shortstop.
While Schafers and Harper return as outfielders, Anna Lauren played the majority of innings in center field; she also graduated this past May.
Guetersloh and Percel can play either corner infield position but like shortstop and the outfield positions, Hudson said third base is up for grabs.
“How hard you work at practice will get you playing time,” Hudson said. “JayDee is an example. She was in our starting lineup as a freshman.”
The freshmen are the most represented class on the team.
“I love it, I think that’s a good sign,” Hudson said of the number of freshmen out for the team.
If an underclassman wins a starting spot, Cain and Harper agreed she would receive total team support.
“We also have to help the underclassmen,” Cain said.
“Individually, we’re great players,” Harper added. “But we haven’t played great as a team.”
The Warriors begin the season Tuesday against Herington in Marion. Harper said the Railers should be a tough test.
The Warriors are looking forward to a matchup May 6 with Hillsboro in Marion. The doubleheader against the Trojans will be barometer to determine how far the Warriors have come this season.