Softball: DAC outlook
After losing only one game in the DAC last year, Lake Central could come close to repeating that effort.
Yes, the Indians lost all-area and all-state first-team catcher Sam Terry, but coach Jeff Sherman has all three of his pitchers back in Bridget Boyle (12-2, 1.67 ERA), Lily Del Toro (8-3, 1.02 ERA) and Morgan Franovich (7-1, 0.91 ERA).
And the offense will be spurred by seniors Nikki Adams (.367 avg., 29 RBI) and Kaitlyn Ranieri (.366 avg., 24 RBI) and junior Kayla Bishton (.411 avg., 33 runs scored).
“This is a veteran ball club where most of the players have played in two final fours,” said Sherman of his team that has reached the semistate final in back-to-back seasons.
Chesterton finished second in the DAC last year, but the Trojans will be much younger after losing a pair of .400 hitters (Taylor Harlow and Heather Overla). But all-DAC players Megan Tymorek (junior, .407 avg., 1.72 ERA) and Sydney Cooley (sophomore, .455 avg.) are back as pitchers for coach LouAnn Hopson’s squad.
“We may struggle at the beginning, but I’m confident that our leaders will help us get to where we need to be,” she said. “When everything comes together we should be in the hunt.”
Portage will have a new coach in Lisa Hayes leading the way after going 19-7 last season. The bad news for the new coach is that the Indians’ top two pitchers from last year (Kylie Someson and Natalie Korpak) are graduated. The good news is that the future’s bright with no seniors, a talented junior catcher in Haley Hodges and a pair of freshmen pitchers (Kaitlin Doud and Kiley Jones) in the fold.
Crown Point finished third in the DAC last year and won its sectional, but lost three players who were key to the offense. Coach Brett Crutchfield will still have infielders RaeAnna Jenks and Ally Rock, and talented pitcher Siena Gyure back to challenge for both conference and sectional titles again.
LaPorte will be without a Jessica Craft for the first time in a while after two of them — same name, not related — graduated the last two years. The latest is playing at Ball State now. But Slicers’ coach Bob Severs will still have plenty of talent to challenge for a sectional title.
Senior pitchers Meghan Bunch (12-3, .311 avg.) and Hannah Fuller (9-4), and infielders Sam Becker (.324) and Alexis Botsford (.420) lead a group of seven returning starters.
Michigan City has been improving the last couple years under coach Candy Feare, and the Wolves could be a sleeper in both the conference and sectional. They lost five players from last year, but senior pitcher Peyton Webb and juniors Jameka Collins (SS) and Aubria Smith (OF) are back.
Valparaiso did improve under coach Tracy Corneil in her first season. The Vikings went from two wins to seven and were playing much better at the end of the season. The gradual improvement should keep going with senior shortstop Clarisse Fletcher, sophomore pitcher Megan Krantz and junior Molly Grant back.
Merrillville is looking for a similar improvement with new coach Dave Lopez returning to high school softball after a couple years away from the game. The Pirates have six starters returning, including seniors Mercedes McClendon (.429 avg.) and Mandy Banashak (.954 fielding pct.), as well as junior Inesha Smith (.464).