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The Lady Rockets come into the season with a No. 20 state-ranking by the Kentucky Prep Softball Coaches poll. And no less than eight opponents on their schedule are also ranking in the top 25, including No. 3 Mercy, No. 4 North Laurel and No. 6 Ballard.
So a team that is admittedly young will have a short time to develop or take some tough defeats as part of the learning curve.
The Lady Rockets lost four seniors in key positions: pitcher, catcher, left fielder and designated hitter. Those four positions are still being filled, coach Kelly Cable said.
“All these positions really are wide open,” she said. “It may come down to who’s on that day, that week.”
Some options for the positions include senior Hannah Stucker, sophomore Jeneca Thomas and junior Kristina Gramig at pitcher. Catchers who Cable are trying out include junior Hannah Abbott, junior Kara Owens and freshman Bailey Rankin.
At left field, Cable is comfortable with sophomore Becca Mouser. And as designated hitter, freshman Sarah Lopesilver has proved herself.
“She hit a three-run shot out in our park,” Cable said.
Lopesilver hit a home run in Shelby’s scrimmage, and the Lady Rocket field is notoriously difficult to do that in, because its fences are about 20 feet farther than most for softball.
Shelby isn’t all young, though, as Cable said her infield has several experienced players in Stucker at shortstop, senior Dee Dee Davis at second base and senior Courtney Tinsley at third base. The fourth senior, Taylor Shaw, will start in center field.
The Lady Rockets said offense is a strength, defense will take some time. Davis said this showed in the scrimmage against Male on Friday.
“I think a lot of people were nervous,” she said. “Our defense was a little shaky the first few innings. We have some pretty good power hitters, and we have some people who can get on base, so we should be able to manufacture runs.”
Said Stucker: “We learned we need to communicate. I think the people that stepped up – they’re doing fine. They just can’t be nervous.”
Even with the early kinks, the Lady Rockets think a repeat of last season’s success isn’t out of reach. They were 8th Region Champs and boasted a 19-15 record. Shelby lost its two first games in the state tournament.
“We definitely want to go to state,” Stucker said. “We want to be there late that night and play in the championship. I don’t think we’ll have a problem at all getting there.”