Andale-Garden Plain softball coach Doris Hein intended for senior Erin Carney to stay at first base this season. But as the preseason went on, it became clear that Carney was the best option to play catcher.
"We needed her there," Hein said."... She's such a gamer and such a sharp kid that you can tell her something once and it's a done deal. She's just that sharp. She adjusted rapidly."
Carney has been key in Andale's 19-1 record because she's so strong behind the plate with the Indians' pitchers, Sydnee Eck and Molly Hein.
"She's a very vocal leader anyway," Doris Hein said of Carney. "She was used to that role at first base... moving her back behind the plate, she didn't have to make any adjustments. She's our quarterback in the infield. At catcher, she does a great job and our pitchers have a lot of confidence in her."
Eck isn't the overpowering pitcher that three-time All-Metro pitcher Karley Schmelzer was, but she's got movement on her pitches and keeps hitters off balance. Molly Hein has come in and thrown well, too. She replaced Eck, who was injured during the Buhler doubleheader, and got the win in Game 2.
Center fielder Sydney Stuever is Andale's most dangerous player, mostly because of her speed. She has only struck out three times and is hitting nearly .600.
"She's a great athlete, she has lots of ability," Doris Hein said. "She's a threat at the plate, she has speed, she can drag, she can hit for power. She has the green light most of the time to read the defense herself, and she's been doing a great job with it."
Young talent — When Hillsboro went to the 2009 Class 3A tournament, coach Stephanie Sinclair started six freshmen.
While Sinclair returned all but one player from last season, there was still some concern that such a young team could struggle.
That hasn't happened. Hillsboro (19-1) heads into its own regional on Monday and will play the Marion (6-14)-SE-Saline (7-11) winner at 6:30 p.m.
"They never give up on a game," Sinclair said. "There have been four or five games where it comes down to the last inning or extra innings. Two of our wins came in extra innings. They are persistent."
Hillsboro starts six sophomores, including shortstop Steph Sanders (.543 batting), pitcher Franny Gottsch (28 RBIs), left fielder Krista Reimer (.473 batting), first baseman Sammy Koons (21 RBIs), right fielder Amy Bartel and pitcher Courtney Weber, who throws Game 1 of doubleheaders.
Freshman second baseman Tena Loewen is hitting .438, while junior outfielder Taylor Nikkel has scored 31 runs and has 24 stolen bases.
Hillsboro's one loss was by run-rule to Haven in Game 1 of the regular season's final doubleheader.
"It was a tough loss, but it's one to learn from," Sinclair said. "We bounced back and won in eight innings in the second game."
Best regional _ One of the best regionals in the state once again involves area Class 4A teams.
There's Mulvane (17-1) and Rose Hill (15-5), who have two of the top pitchers in the area in Taylor Parsons and Keelyn Bonar. Then there's Clearwater (12-8) and Augusta (9-9). Don't let the records of Clearwater and Augusta fool you. They are consistently some of 4A's top programs and they play a tough Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail schedule.