Members of Jonathan Alder’s varsity softball team are from left, front row, Abby Harrington, Abby Bush, Danielle Phipps, Sydne Hermiller, Kylie King, Allisa Miller and Lilly Walker; back row, Evan Platfoot, Liz Lombardi, Shanna Higgins, Erin Coffey, Danielle Robbins, Kiersten Dolby, Marlee Jacobs and Jaxsyn Murdock. Not pictured, Jaden Phelps. (Photo submitted)
Jonathan Alder’s softball squad has five lettermen returning from the 2019 team that captured the Division II state championship.
The sport of softball has often been said to start in the pitching circle.
To that end, the Lady Pioneers (28-1 in 2019) are very solid.
Junior Marlee Jacobs returns from a 2019 campaign that saw her post a 25-1 record, 1.50 ERA and 129 strikeouts.
Her backstop target will be junior catcher Kylie King, who would have been the starter a year ago if the 2020 campaign hadn’t been halted by the coronavirus.
Junior Danielle Robbins, who started as a freshman left fielder, has been switched to second base.
Jaden Phelps, who pitched and was a utility player a couple of years ago, will man first base as a junior.
There are currently no plans for her to take to the pitching circle this spring.
Junior Sydney Hermiller is another utility player who will primarily see action in the outfield.
Newcomers to the roster include sophomore pitcher Danielle Phipps, Shayna Higgins, a sophomore who will play either shortstop or third base, and freshmen Lilly Walker (outfield, third base) and outfielders Addie Bush and Kersten Dolby.
Another freshman is Evan Platfoot, who can also play shortstop and third base when she’s not involved with spring AAU basketball.
Junior Lizzie Lombardi, who was a standout on the school’s state runner-up volleyball squad last fall, joins the program this year.
“Lizzie hasn’t played softball since middle school,” said Alder head coach Dave McGrew. “However, she’s a great athlete and will play in the outfield.”
The projected starting lineup will include Phelps at first base, Robbins at second base, King at catcher and outfielders Walker, Lombardi, Bush or Dolby.
Shortstop and third base will be interchangeable between Higgins, Walker and Platfoot.
The Lady Pioneers lost their long-ball threat when third baseman Jillian Jakse graduated last spring.
“However, I think we will be able to manufacture runs with our speed,” said McGrew.
“We have a few areas of concern with our lack of varsity experience in some positions,” said the veteran head coach. “However, the new girls are buying into our system.”
McGrew said the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division will be strong with the likes of Kenton Ridge, Springfield Shawnee and Benjamin Logan.
“North Union (in the Mad River Division) will also be tough as a cross-over game,” he said.
The coach said the team will contend for CBC championship honors.
The Lady Pioneers have had a bushel basket full of success the past few years.
They have earned Division II state Final Four berths in four of the past six seasons.
That, however, is not a topic of discussion.
“We don’t talk about what we’ve done in the past,” said McGrew.
“We also don’t look too far ahead in the schedule,” he said. “Our goal is get better every day and focus on our task at hand.
“If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”