Sporting WCA

Softball Preview: Veteran talent lead Cats into a season full of question marks

With more than three-fourths of the team playing varsity for the first time, head coach Dan Petke is hopeful but isn’t exactly sure what the upcoming season might look like for his Westminster Wildcat softball team. The Wildcats return just five players from last year’s team; a team that went 8-15 and lost to Borgia in the district final, but these five players provide the team with a strong core of veteran experience.

“I have a lot of confidence in the girls coming back from last season” said Petke. “Between the five of them, we have pitching, catching, and solid infield play. These are extremely important in the game of softball.”

Senior captain and starting pitcher Dani Mabry has played varsity for four years and has logged 85% of the innings pitched by the entire staff in the last two seasons while hitting over .300 during that span. The offense is led by two juniors, Lauren Gates and Reese Earleywine, who have both started all three years they’ve been on the team. Gates led the team with a .443 batting average last year while handling most of the catching duties, and Earlewine slugged 3 home runs along with knocking in 23 RBI’s. Nicki Mabry, sophomore, and Katelynn Graham, senior, also return to boost the offense as Graham had a .373 OBP, and Mabry drove in 16 runs a season ago. Aside from these five, however, not much is certain.

“Many of the new girls this year haven’t played softball since elementary school, and some have never even played at all” said Petke.

A parade of new players, most of whom have never before played the game of softball, joined the team this fall dispelling any question on if there was even going to be a softball team. Of these eighteen new girls, fourteen will be playing organized softball for the very first time and the other four have played no more than two years. With so many new players, some of the goals for the team have shifted. The team still wants to play hard, show good sportsmanship, and have fun, but the five returning players also wanted to stress the importance of making sure all the girls have the confidence to play.

“Our goals are to teach the new girls the game of softball and how to be confident and comfortable on the field” said Dani Mabry. “There have been a few challenges, but we have to focus more on teaching and setting a good, positive example for the girls.”

The job of determining which girls will fill the holes left by last year’s seniors hasn’t been an easy task for Coach Petke. However, through the first several practices and a preseason jamboree, in which the Wildcats won twice and tied once, several girls have stood out and made a case for themselves.

“I think all of the new girls have strong skills in different areas” said Mabry. “But I’m especially excited to see how Rachel Arndt, Carsyn Beachy, Katie Hobaugh, and Marty Briner do.”

These newcomers will have a chance to showcase their talent as the Wildcats open up their season against Notre Dame on Friday followed by a double header at Notre Dame on Saturday.