August 21, 2008

New Look Lady Tigers Looking to Leap Up League Standings in 2008

An impressive list of graduates doesn’t mean the tradition-rich Tri-Rivers Conference softball competition will be any less difficult in the 2008 season, which opens next week.

Gone is conference Most Valuable Player Tara Verkuilen of Schuyler County, Scotland County’s Kirsten Johnston and a host of other post-season award winners who took their game on to the college level.

To no one’s surprise Putnam County is again the pre-season favorite to represent the league in the state playoffs come October.

The Midgets return a talented cast of players led by pitcher Stacy Hines, and the all-conference trio of Katie Steele, Hillary Mason and Sarah Riley.

Putnam County finished 6-1 last year and tied with the surprising Rams for the league title before besting the upstarts to keep the Midgets domination of district play in tact.

The Rams will have to lean heavily on all-league pitcher Alyssa Greenstreet if they hope to repeat last year’s solid season. Schuyler County graduated Verkuilen and all-conference catcher Jackie Roberts who combined to give the Rams the league’s most potent offense.

Johnston’s graduation leaves a big hole for Scotland County’s coach Kim Small to fill. In all, SCR-I will have to replace six graduating seniors, including the starting left side of the infield and the team’s catching tandem.

The 2008 version of Lady Tigers will be built around returning pitchers Kelly Lister and Kaitlin Caldwell and around the bat of all-conference first baseman Deidra Dochterman.

Dochterman will be switching positions, taking over the catching duties in 2008. That leaves a whole new infield for the Lady Tigers this season. Caldwell, one of the teams four seniors, will be shagging throws from a bunch of new faces as the SCR-I infield. Skyler Alderton will take over at second base, a role she started to fill late in the 2007 season as a freshman. Junior Elizabeth Small will take over at shortstop for Johnston. The Lady Tigers will also have to replace Kellyn Wickert at third base. Senior Valerie Oldham will move in from leftfield to man the hot corner. Oldham earned all district and all conference honors last year as a junior. She will be counted on as a big bat in the middle of the order.

The outfield will have an entirely new look in 2008 as well. Starting leftfielder Tara Matlock moved out of the district (as did catcher Ti Waibel). SCR-I graduated starting center fielder Lacy Jack as well as fellow outfielder Megan Westhoff who saw plenty of action at all three spots last year.

Coach Small will be looking to senior Christina Duzan and Kristen Kaldenberg to hold down two of the spots along with junior Jessica Sites.

“With just 18 kids out this year, we’re not going to have as much flexibility as we have seen in years past as far as lineups and substitutions,” Small said.

While the Midgets may be the clear cut favorites in the conference, Scotland County hopes to improve on last season’s 7-16 mark and join the rest of the pack in trying to end Putnam County’s district dominance.

SCR-I opens the year Monday, August 25th at Highland for a junior varsity, varsity double header getting underway at 5:00 p.m. The home opener will be Tuesday, August 26th against Brashear at 5:00 p.m. at Johnson Park.

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