Unexpected transfers may have thrown the Sacred Heart Gremlins softball team for a loop.
However, coach Craig Matz believes his team can be competitive this season and make a run in the state playoffs.
The Gremlins, along with all other spring softball teams, will get the chance to play for a state championship for the first time this season. In years past, only softball teams that played in the fall had a chance to compete in a state tournament. That changed this year.
“Everybody’s excited and looking forward to it,” Matz said. “We gained some players because of that, and we’ve got seventh- and eighth-graders wanting to play next year. There’s a lot of talk about it among other towns.”
Three starters from last season transferred from Sacred Heart, and they were cornerstone players on last year’s 15-4 squad.
Pitcher Emma Honn, catcher Olivia Honn and shortstop Darby Simon now attend Smith-Cotton.
Finding a pitcher was among Matz’s biggest challenges, but he knew who he wanted.
Senior Erin Holt, who had been playing soccer, will be the team’s lone pitcher this spring.
“We feel fortunate to have her,” Matz said. “She played soccer last year but has played summer ball” for a while.
Matz calls Holt, senior center fielder Elizabeth Freels and senior left fielder Virginia Vanegas the heart of the team.
“They’re three good hitters and fielders,” Matz said.
Junior first baseman Julie Chancellor and sophomore right fielder Kelsey VanVickle also return from last season.
The remaining five players on the team’s 10-person roster are freshmen. They are third baseman Adrianna Belles, catcher Amanda Matz, right fielder Allison Prenger, second baseman Jessica Schibi and shortstop Elex Simon.
Craig Matz coached all of the freshmen on a summer team.
“They know what I expect,” the coach said. “They are teachable and excited about playing. These young girls (will learn that) high school is lot different than summer ball.
“We have a good group of girls. They play good defense and the freshmen are really working hard. We’ll be pretty good, not a big powerhouse, but we’ll hold our own.”
The Gremlins were scheduled to open the season Monday, but that game was postponed because five of their players are away on Sacred Heart’s senior trip. The team will open April 1 against St. Paul Lutheran in Concordia.