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Northridge, Fairfield are softball preseason favorites

Raiders, Falcons coming off postseason success.

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.

The final two teams that were playing at the end of the 2013 high school softball season appear to be the strongest as coaches and players battle Mother Nature to open the 2014 season.

Fairfield lost in the semistate finals in Class 3A to Yorktown in 2013 and returns a solid group, which includes junior pitcher Danica Mast.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the county, Northridge returns star pitcher Haley Nixon from a team that lost to Portage in the opening game of the Class 4A semistate last June. The Raiders finished 25-2.

Northridge opens 2014 ranked No. 3 in 4A, while Fairfield is ranked fifth in 3A.

Among the letterwinners joining Nixon at Northridge are third baseman Hannah Kistler, outfielder Brooke Maes and Brianne O’Dell, who will move from second base to shortstop for 2014. All four players are seniors.

"We have a lot of experienced players back, but with the weather, it may take awhile to see where we are as a team,’’ Northridge coach James "Bo" O’Dell said. "Each practice and game is about working hard and trying to get better.’’

Fairfield reached the 3A semistate finals despite going just 6-4 in the Northeast Corner Conference as a young team reached its peak in the state tournament.

Veteran coach John Skibbe enters his 21st season with Mast as his ace, while sophomore catcher D.J. Martz, who it two homers in a regiona victory over Fort Wayne Dwenger last season, leading the Falcon’s offensive charge.

Concord coach Dawn Austin enters her second season at the helm of the Minutemen with nine returning letterwinners, including pitcher Jenny Miller.

The Minutemen were 17-9 under Austin last season, including a 9-4 mark in the Northern Lakes Conference. Austin was the pitching coach at Notre Dame for eight seasons before coming to Concord.

The team with the most returning letterwinners is Bethany Christian, where head coach Krysten Parsons returns 15 players from last season’s 9-15 squad.

There are new coaches at Elkhart Central, NorthWood, Westview, Elkhart Christian, Wawasee and Jimtown this season.

Javier Jimenez enters his first year at Jimtown with a very young team — just one senior — as he replaces longtime coach Brent Kulp in Baugo Township.

"I am excited about the speed and athleticism of this team,’’ Jimenez said. "I am also excited about the leadership shown by our only senior (Sierra Geier) and the dedication and commitment by all the players.’’

Meanwhile, Brent Bardo takes over at Central, and has a strong pitcher (Cassie Shelton) and his best hitter (Brittney VanderHoek) back from last season’s 15-12 squad that lost to Northridge in the sectional finals.

"These kids, led by our five seniors, are working their tales’ off and are very coachable,’’ Bardo said. "They’ve set some very high goals, which just proves they want to be successful.’’

BETHANY CHRISTIAN

Coach: Krysten Parsons (eighth season).

Assistants: Mattie Lehman, Linda Bontrager.

2013 record: 8-14.

Returning letterwinners (15): Seniors —Maria Bontrager (p-ss), Tori Craw (1b), Hanna Hochstetler (1b), Samantha Horsch (of), Nicole Schwartz (2b), Lorae Weaver (3b-c). Juniors — Erin Bontrager (2b-3b), Mallory Bontreger (of-2b-c, Jordan Helmuth (ss-p), Marisa Marquez (of), Lena Yeakey (c-of), Rachel Schrock (of), Nicole Schwartz (2b), Carole Evans (p-of). Sophomore — Isabel Rondo (2b-of).

Others: Junior — Danielle Welty (p-ss). Freshmen — Kati Quiggle (p), Abbie Hochstetler (of), Megan Duckworth (of).

CONCORD

Coach: Dawn Austin (17-9 in one season).

Assistants: Mike Jackowiak, Jerry Adkins, Jess Dooley.

2013 record: 17-9 (10-4 in Northern Lakes Conference).

Returning letterwinners (9): Seniors — Jenny Miller (p-3b), Sabrina Scherer (c), Olivia Hess (1b-c), Tori Braddock (of). Juniors — Jade Iavagnilio (of), Maddi Jackowiak (if), Taylor Nelson (c), Rae Ann Miller (p-of). Sophomore — McKenzie Loge (if-of).

Others: Juniors — Brittney Eichorst (2b-of), Allyson Williams (1b-3b), Lillie Schiavone (1b-3b). Sophomore — Kiley Austin (p-of).

EDWARDSBURG

Coach: Randy Brooks (sixth season at Edwardsburg; 621-283 in 26 seasons).

2013 season: 24-12 (tied for first in Wolverine West).

Returning letterwinners (10): Seniors — Delani Disher (of), Kaley Frank (3b-c), Bailey Thomas (of), Teryn Williams (ss). Juniors — Lila Blough (dp), Rachel Borden (of), McKenzie Creed (1b), Delaney Peters (p), Chante Williams (2b). Sophomore — Kalye Ryker (3b-c).

Others: Juniors — Olivia Bachteal (of), Alise Markel (of). Sophomore — Paige Freshour (of). Freshmen — Savannah Dixon (2b), Ali Strycker (p).

ELKHART CENTRAL

Coach: Brent Bardo (first season).

Assistants: Dave Walker, Steve Cart, Chris Havens, Kari Bowley.

2013 record: 15-12.

Returning letterwinners (11): Seniors — Brittney VanderHoek (of), Cassie Shelton (p), Ariel Waters (2b), Allison Valentijn (of), Kate Cobb (ss). Juniors — Emily Namisnak (1b), Leah Gibson (2b-of), Elizabeth Tully (of), Celesta Ganger (3b-p) Audrey Garner (p-of). Sophomore — Cyndee Prugh (3b-2b).

Others: Junior — Shatia Messitk (c-of). Sophomore — Mikayla Clark (c), Basia Martinez (c). Freshman — Karis Cochrane (p)

ELKHART CHRISTIAN

Coach: Craig Coffman (first season).

Assistants: Richelle Viront, Maynard Johnson).

2013 record: 3-6.

Returning letterwinners (8): Seniors — Savannah Minnes (of), Brieanna Lowe (ss), Leah Lovan (of), Makenzie Colon (c). Juniors — Hannah Stayton (p), Sarah Bennett (of). Sophomores — Mariah Radabaugh (1b), Marci Frost (3b).

Others: Freshmen — Addie Findley, Madison Heinen, Bethany McKibbon, Davina Schrock, Carissa Warren, Sarah Weldy.

ELKHART MEMORIAL

Coach: Craig Sears (215-104 in 11 seasons).

Assistants: Mitch Harrington, Allison Sears, Andrea Pinarski.

2013 record: 13-14 (9-5 in Northern Lakes Conference).

Returning letterwinners (9): Seniors — Danielle Coulahan (3b), Logan Williams (1b), Gretchen Hurtle (p), Layla Raven (of), Ally Roskos (of), Lauren Wesolowski (p-if). Juniors — Gabby Warner (ss), Kierstoen Osowski (c-if). Sophomore — Kim Lucas (of).

Others: Sophomores — Alexa Swearengin (2B), Lily Mora (c-if), Shkira Perez (of).

FAIRFIELD

Coach: John Skibbe (265-249-1 in 20 seasons)

Assistants: Myron Schwartz, Rick Everest, Lydell Troyer, Mick Reese.

2013 record: 22-9 (6-4 in Northeast Corner Conference; sectional, regional champions).

Returning letterwinners (9): Seniors — Erin Carlos (3b), Payton Kammerdiener (1b), Shelby Niswonger (dp), Karen Schwartz (of). Junior — Danica Mast (p). Sophomores — D.J. Martz (c), Lairen Miller (p), Jalisa Schwartz (of), Alexis Zook (ss).

Others: Junior — Haley Cripe (2b-of), Devyn Smallwood (of), Mickayla Wallace (3b). Sophomore — Shelby Graber (of). Freshman — Samantha Shank (c).

GOSHEN

Coach: Cassi McCormack (14-43 in two seasons).

2013 record: 7-22 (2-12 in Northern Lakes Conference).

Assistants: Dennis Olip, Jeryl Miller, Michael McCormack, Kala Troyer, Gabby Krezel.

Returning letterwinners (6): Seniors — Jessica DeStefano (c-1b), Taylor Caouette (3b-p), Jessica Axalco (of). Juniors — Ali Nemeth (2b-of), Brooke Miller (ss-of). Sophomore — Lexi Vanover (p-of).

Others: Junior — Jordan Stotts (2b), Sophomores — Olivia Love (1b), Azytiah Nolen (ss-of), Emily Castillo (if). Freshman — Reagan Wilson (1b), Jordan Nemeth (of), Kaley Holmer (p).

JIMTOWN

Coach: Javier Jimenez (first season).

Assistants: David Hill, Emily Willard, Jeff VanDeKeere, Sara Zann.

2013 record: 11-14 (8-6 in Northern State Conference).

Returning letterwinners (5): Senior — Sierra Geier (if). Juniors — Bailey Clark (p-of), Karigan Housman (c-if), Jenna Thompson (c). Sophomore — Kaylee Pletcher (p-of).

Others: Sophomores — Shannon Holman (c), Alli Clere (of), Caity Withrow (if).

NORTHRIDGE

Coach: Bo O’Dell (77-8 in three seasons).

Assistants: Andy Robinson, Lavern Wingard, Mary Jo Martin, Sheila Hostetler, Aimee Gingerich.

2013 record: 25-2 (14-0 in Northern Lakes Conference; NLC, sectional, regional champions).

Returning letterwinners (9): Seniors — Haley Nixon (p), Brianne O’Dell (ss, Mikayla Deisler (of), Grace Grevengoed (of-if), Hannah Kistler (3b), Taylor Long (c), Brooke Maes (of), Whitney Yoder (of-if). Sophomore — Bailey O’Dell (of-if).

Others: Junior — Jordan Yoder (p-if). Sophomores — Kaylee Lantz (if), Sarah Kane (p).

NORTHWOOD

Coach: Mandy DeMien (first season).

Assistants: Jeff Stillson, Mike Klotz, Emily Lamkin.

2013 record: 10-13 (4-10 in Northern Lakes Conference).

Returning letterwinners (6): Senior — Allie Mattingly (ss). Juniors — Lexi Bergman (3b-of), Paige Hershberger (c), Blakely Lengacher (1b-p-of). Sophomores — Arika Flickinger (of), Taylor Troxel (p-1b).

Others: Sophomores — Claire McGuire (of-c), Linnzie Richner (of), Emily Schrock (1b), Emily Alexander (of-p). Freshmen — Olivia Peyla (p-of), Summer Stillson (2b).

PENN

Coach: Beth Zachary (132-42 in six seasons).

Assistants: Brian Griman, Molly Purucker, David Zachary, Sarah Dwigans, Dave Barncord, Dustin Zachary, Ashley Carrico.

2013 record: 19-7 (7-1 in Northern Indiana Conference).

Returning letterwinners (12): Seniors — Mackenzie Joecken (p), Courtney Pepper (p-of), Claryce Gedde (c-3b). Juniors — Monica Smith (3b), Andriana Tashijan (2b), Brianna Sherman (1b), Melissa Wilson (of). Sophomores — Halle Hixenbaugh (ss), Addison Pixley (of), Alexandra Piatt (of), Alyssa Griman (c), Olivia Magaldi (3b-ss-of).

Others: Freshmen — Danielle Watson (p), Katie Quinlan (of), Madelyn Newman (ss).

WAWASEE

Coach: Jared Knipper (first season).

Assistants: Jace Stewart, Kenny Gunkel, Tessa Smith.

2013 record: 13-15 (6-8 in Northern Lakes Conference).

Returning letterwinners (5): Senior — Courtney Crabtree (of). Juniors — Paige Hlutke (c), Ali Ousley (ss). Sophomores — Kylee Rostochak (3b), Christina DeLaFuente (of).

Others: Sophomore — Danille Gunkel (p). Freshman — Ali Brito (of), Amger Lemburg (p), Meghan Fetz (p).

WESTVIEW

Coach: Jeremy Williams (first season).

Assistants: Ryan Glassman, Roger Witham, Kaitlyn Frost.

2013 record: 7-13 (3-7 Northeast Corner Conference).

Returning letterwinners (8): Seniors — Amber Roth, Rachel Johns, Brooke Yoder, Brooke Wigner, Sam Pfenning. Juniors — Hannah Witham, Sidney Byrkett, Kathy Yoder.

Others: Freshmen — Karis Brewer, Annie Sharick. Stephanie Mowery.


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