MENDOTA — The Ghostbusters famously asked, “Who you gonna call?”
This season, Mendota softball coach Joel Perez is asking the same question, wondering who he is going to call upon to handle the team’s pitching duties.
Despite the Lady Trojans returning six starters from last year’s team that fell in a regional final, MHS graduated three core players, including four-year star pitcher Ashlyn Kennedy.
While others threw last spring, Kennedy handled the majority of the work in the circle last season and over the last four years, and her graduation has left the Lady Trojans with a void to fill.
“I’ve been on them, and it kind of started last year,” Perez said. “We knew it was Ashlyn’s last year, so we knew we’d need somebody to step in and take over that spot. It’s kind of wide open, but pitching is always the key.”
The bulk of the pitching load is expected to fall onto senior Taylor Browder. Last year, she went 1-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 26 innings pitched.
In addition to Browder, Perez also expects to throw senior Reiss Avery and junior Amy Devitt.
“The good thing with Taylor is that she’s never really walked a lot of people, so we have a lot of confidence that she’ll throw strikes and make the other team put the ball in play and that our defense can back her up,” Perez said. “She doesn’t have great speed, but she has four or five pitches and, if she can throw them for strikes, then I think we can keep other teams off-balance.”
If that’s the case, the Lady Trojans should be in line for yet another successful season.
In the first three years under Perez, the team improved its win total every year before MHS played for the regional title last spring in a weather-shortened season.
Now in Perez’s fifth year as coach, the squad hopes to break through and win the program’s first regional despite bumping up from Class 2A to 3A.
“A lot of our girls played ASA over the summer, so we all have the ability to play,” MHS senior captain Mallary Phalen said. “We just need to come together and make all of our strengths work so that we can become a better team. If we can do that, we can be really good.”
Mendota returns six starters from last year’s team but did lose three of its top four hitters atop the lineup.
Sophomore Mary Wackerlin is back as catcher, while Devitt is expected to play at first base. Avery returns at second base, but junior Marisa Setchell could also see playing time if Avery pitches, while junior Brooke Stallings will play at shortstop.
Phalen returns at third base, but junior Mary Brandner could see action if Phalen plays shortstop.
In the outfield, senior Halie Donahue returns in left field, while junior Brooke Carroll will return in center field, but she may also play some in the infield. Senior Malorie DeFore also returns in right field.
Setchell, senior Madison McConville and junior Paige Simonton could also see time in the outfield.
Perez isn’t certain of his lineup top to bottom but does have a bit of an idea.
Carroll is expected to lead off, while Avery or DeFore will bat second with Wackerlin, Stallings and Phalen likely to factor into the middle of the Lady Trojan lineup.
“I think we have a lot of hitting,” Carroll said. “We have power hitters and contact hitters, so I think we’ll have a good lineup top to bottom. I don’t think we’ll have as many slumps because we’re all pretty good.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.