By William / www.mcpherson-county-ks.com
MOUNDRIDGE – After coming up short by one game of reaching state in 2021, the Moundridge softball team is looking to finish with a bit more success in 2022 under the leadership of a new coach.
After serving as an assistant coach for three seasons, Lynn Eichelberger will be stepping up to serve as the leader of the Lady Wildcats and their hopeful successes on the diamond.
That 2021 team finished 16-7 overall and 10-6 with a fourth-place finish in the Heart of America League before losing to Marion in their Class 2-1A regional championship game.
With just 15 girls out for the team this spring, coach Eichelberger will also need to replace three key players from 2021 who have graduated in Erin Durst, Mackenzie Elmore, and Alea Durst. All three provided a lot of team leadership while playing a lot of Lady Wildcat softball in their careers.
“We will need to find some players with varsity inexperience to fill our graduates shoes,” noted Coach Eichelberger. “I am ready to see what this team can accomplish as I have been the assistant the past three years and have watched this group of juniors and seniors mature and get better. They are a fun group to be around and a lot of them played a lot of softball in the off-season.”
The 2022 team will have seven Lady Wildcats returning who were considered starters led by two seniors in Kate Eichelberger, who earned honorable mention all-league honors as a first baseman, and Emma Blough, a pitcher and outfielder.
Juniors Emily Durst, Aubree Durst, and Reese Schmidt will also be on the diamond with Emily and Aubree earning second-team all-league honors for the play in the infield and outfield, respectively, while Schmidt gained honorable mention all-league as a designated player.
Also ready for 2022 success will be junior Kindall Elmore playing catcher and shortstop, and Addy Falco, a junior second baseman.
“We have junior Emily Durst returning to the mound,” said Coach Eichelberger. “She pitched a lot of innings last year as the number two pitcher and was pitching very well at the end of the season, so we are hoping she can build on those outings. Emma (Blough) will also be counted on to log some innings to take the workload off Emily.”
Eichelberger continued by saying, “The right side of the infield is solid with returning starters Kate (Eichelberger) at first base and Addy Falco at second base. The left side will be a carousel, likely determined by who is pitching and catching while Aubree (Durst) will again patrol center field as she did last season. Emma (Blough) may have to play some infield and we will need to find someone to give Kindall (Elmore) at catcher.”
The rest of the Lady Wildcat roster will shake out with part-time starter, senior Lizzy Kliewer playing some third base while being a key designated player. Kliewer is also being counted on to help provide some power to the lineup with the graduation of Erin Durst and Mackenzie Elmore who combined for seven home runs in 2021.
Coach Eichelberger added that Junior Hannah Schrag will be given consideration for work in the infield while junior Vianca San Miguel and sophomore Macie Woltje will help fill out the outfield, though Woltje could see time backing up Elmore at catcher.
Moundridge will welcome two new upperclassmen to the competition in the outfield in Maggy Adolf and Avery Rice while Rilynn Newhouse and Petyon McDonald are freshman infielders looking to get some innings in the lineup as well.
Concluding her pre-season reflections, Coach Eichelberger added, “Our opponents this season are the same as last year with Ell-Saline, Marion, and Sedgwick always being tough teams to play and a non-conference double-header with Canton/Galva will add another quality opponent. I will be counting on first-year assistant Jennifer Suarez to help me coach the varsity and she will be vital to our team success.”
The Lady Wildcats will open the 2022 season on Tuesday, March 29 when they travel to Sedgwick before traveling to Whitewater on Friday, April 1 to tangle with Remington.
(William is a free-lance writer covering McPherson County Activities – he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)