This is the last chance for the Hillsboro High School softball seniors to claim a state title. They know it, and they are going to come out ready to play, head coach Stephanie Sinclair said.
Sinclair is expecting big seasons at the plate from middle-of-the-order hitters Krista Reimer, Stephanie Sanders, and Sammy Koons. The Hillsboro lineup should be formidable with seniors Amy Bartel and Courtney Weber filling out the second half of the order.
Weber will also be a rock for the Trojans on the pitching rubber. With the ACL injury to junior Tena Loewen, more pressure will be heaped on Weber to dominate opposing offenses with her menu of pitches: fastball, change-up, and drop ball.
“What will be tough on Courtney will be pitching and then having to come back in to relieve somebody who is struggling,” Sinclair said. “She’s prepared, though.”
Sinclair said Loewen has already been a presence for the Trojans at practice and in the dugout. She has been asking her coach about strategies employed this season and is thinking comprehensively about the game.
“She is going to help us at some point this season,” Weber said.
However, the loss of Loewen’s abilities as a pitcher and shortstop will force other Trojans to rotate around the diamond. Sanders will predominantly play short this season, where she split time last year. Sophomore Danae Bina will play at second base and take over for graduated senior Allie Faul behind the plate.
Junior Erin Loewen will take over at the hot corner this season, getting her first taste of major playing with the team. Although Koons will be a constant at first, Sinclair described the Hillsboro infield as a work in progress.
On the other hand, Sinclair said the Trojans’ outfield defense has a chance to be just as good as it has been the past two seasons. Reimer and Bartel will play corner outfield spots. They both possess athleticism seldom seen from high school outfielders. When not pitching, Weber will take over from graduated senior Taylor Nikkel in center field.
Many positions this season will host a competition between established players and freshmen, including third base, second base, catcher, center field, and pitcher. Sinclair expects one of the freshmen to start at pitcher.
Although she did not want to pick out specific players fearing applying too much pressure, she said the group is talented. The freshmen, along with Erin Loewen and Koons providing leadership, have also had the advantage of getting an extra week of practice while their teammates were participating in the 3A state basketball tournament.
The Trojans begin the season March 30 against Nickerson in Nickerson. Other key matchups include a date with Halstead on April 3 in Halstead and against Pratt on April 17 at home.