After making it to the state finals the past three years, members of the Pottsville softball team feel as though they have a bit of a target on their backs.
“Last year, we lost a really big senior class, so I think most people thought we would have a rebuilding year,” head coach Lyndsey Hill said. “But we were able to get hot at the right time, and that’s what I preached all year.
“I told them, ‘These conference games are important, but they are just practice games for district, regional and state.’”
Pottsville finished 19-9, defeating Farmington in the Class 4A state-championship game last season.
“This year, we have seven of our nine starters returning,” said Hill, who is in her second season as coach. “I’ve got some great power hitting stepping up to help, but people are gunning for us more than they were last year, for sure.”
Returning this year is junior Sadie Saul, who averaged .506 with 7 home runs, and senior Abbie Cain, who batted .404 and had a fielding percentage of .943.
Saul is a catcher and will hit at the three hole.
“She has a lot of power; she is a strong kid,” Hill said. “And she will probably be even stronger this year because of the work she is putting in in the weight room.
“She really looks at hitting as a craft. She is smart about it.”
Cain and Shannon Lasey, a senior pitcher, have both committed to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
Lasey had a 2.0 ERA last season with 189 strikeouts.
“Shannon is one of the best pitchers in the state, in my opinion,” Hill said. “She throws hard, but she is also able to spin the ball well and put it exactly where she wants it.”
Hill said Lasey is long and lanky, and because of that, she has a lot of speed, averaging around 63.
“I am really excited about this year’s team,” Hill said. “The thing I am most excited about for this season is the fact that we have options, lineup wise.
“We have several different lineups that we can go with, depending on who we play, and that’s a good problem to have.”
Pottsville will have to replace Sophia Hampton, who earned All-MVP at the state final, and Kaylie Pennington.
“Abbie Cain is going to slide over to the shortstop position,” Hill said. “She is one of the best defenders we have. She is tiny, but quick. If they hit it close to her, she is going to get a glove on it.
“She’s been like that since she was a freshman. She goes out for every ball.”
The coach said the team’s strength will be its pitching.
“Offensively, we have to put in a lot of one-on-one work in the offseason to get stronger and make smarter hitters,” Hill said.