SEASON PREVIEW: Valley softball victories come in many forms

Mar. 29—High school softball in the Wabash Valley will be in full swing by the time this weekend ends, but the biggest victory of the spring may have already been achieved.

Dwayne Stout will be back on the coaching lines soon for Terre Haute South, maybe as soon as Saturday's game at Columbus North. He missed some time with the team recently to accompany his wife Brenda — who is also South's junior varsity coach — for some out-of-state treatments for a life-threatening illness. The fact that both are back in the dugout makes it a big win.

The other two Vigo County teams provide the slugging to please fans of offense, while Northview hopes to have the run prevention to combat that.

Around the area, one of the biggest games of the spring has already been played, with Clay City beating Sullivan in extra innings.

Both the Eels and the Golden Arrows still have players back from state championship-game appearances in 2021 and both were in the preseason Class A (Clay City) and Class 2A (Sullivan) polls. Riverton Parke, a team with small strike zones and occasionally large power, and traditional Wabash River Conference foe South Vermillion are also worth watching.

—Northview — The Knights, who open Wednesday against Riverton Parke, were an extremely young team last year but came up with an 18-9 record and a third-place finish in the Western Indiana Conference.

Coach Kathy Vossmer's team has one of the area's best pitchers in sophomore Maggie Krause, which is a good start.

Among other returnees are expected to be senior infielder Mianah Thompson and more excellent sophomores like Chloe Batchelor, Kyanna Gardner and the Thompson twins, Jaelyn and Jenna. All of those are versatile defensively and dangerous offensively.

—Terre Haute North — The Patriots are 1-1 and have scored 32 runs in the two games. So offense is not a problem, but run prevention might be an issue.

"We know we're gonna hit, but we've got to work on defense," coach Chris Mundy after North's loss last week.

Among North's top hitters are sophomore Madi Strange, junior Kara Salmon, sophomore Emma Morrison, junior Lucy Gibson and senior Paige LItzenich — plus freshman Kenzie Zigler, whose first game as a Patriot featured two singles, a double, a line drive to left field and a fly ball to the center field fence.

"We'll play a lot of kids early [before settling on a regular lineup]," said Mundy, whose team was 12-15 last year. "We've got a lot of solid kids."

—Terre Haute South — The Braves started the season 0-3 but got an encouraging pitching performance by sophomore Emma Cesinger in the most recent setback.

Leading the way for a team that was 12-14-1 a year ago are six seniors — infielders Marlee Loudermilk, Izzy Light and Lexi Kinzer and outfielders Kyar McVey, Ella Gottschalk and Mia Shattuck. "We expect [the seniors] to set the pace this year," Dwayne Stout said.

Other regulars back include sophomore Lakyn Hadley and junor Carley Werremeyer, while Cesinger and junior Taylor Akers will do a lot of the pitching. A freshman to watch is freshman Marcia Parker.

The Braves seem to have plenty of depth — and with their coaching staff intact again, plenty of motivation.

—West Vigo — Coach Chris Nidiffer's team was 14-14 last season but still has several players back from a sectional championship team two years ago. So expectations are high.

The Vikings beat good teams from Casey and Terre Haute North in their first two games, although Nidiffer joked, "We'll see how we do after we lose a couple."

West Vigo has two proven pitchers in senior Carlea Funk, the hero of the 2022 sectional team, and sophomore Jaleigh Lindley. Seniors Parker Auten, Piper Beeler, Izzy Blevins and Caprice McCalister and junor Janelle Sullivan are others back from the sectional championship team, while sophomores Grace Rodgers, Ariana Elkins and Jaycee Elkins are also key contributors this season.

"Our pitching is solid and our bats look good," Nidiffer said. "We expect to be playing for conference and sectional championships."