A year ago, three Central Indiana softball teams played for state titles. Two of those, Scecina (2A) and Tri-West (3A), came home with championships, while Franklin Central dropped a 2-0 decision to Portage in the 4A final.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see all those teams back in the same situation this spring. All three return at least five starters from last year’s squads; Scecina and Tri-West are ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, while Franklin Central is sixth.
Pendleton Heights (fourth in 4A) also is loaded, while Greenwood – which spent a good portion of last season ranked No. 1 in 4A – has a lot of talent returning. Center Grove, Hamilton Southeastern, Roncalli, Lebanon and Lutheran also are teams that could make some noise once the postseason rolls around.
Five teams to watch
Pendleton Heights: Eight starters return from a team that was 26-5 and ended the season with a 1-0 loss to Franklin Central in the semistate. Pitcher Bailey Benefiel is back on the hill. Butler University-bound Sarah Dixon hit .495 with two home runs and 25 runs batted in. Delilah Wright (IUPUI) batted .415 with 20 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. Four other players who batted .302 or higher also return.
Greenwood: The Woodmen started last season 19-0 before losing three of their last six games, including a 1-0 loss to New Palestine in the sectional semifinals. Five big bats and three strong pitchers return. Brittany Gray leads Greenwood but Rachel Overton (.403, three HRs, 29 RBIs); Megan Overton (.466, 14 RBIs); Bridgett Pepper (.367, eight steals); and Davis Carter (.365, two HRs, 18 RBIs) also are back. Megan Overton was 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA last season, while Rachel Overton was 3-0. “Even though last year’s loss still hurts, this is a new season and we have to focus on what’s ahead of us,” Greenwood coach Stephanie Senac said. “The team, and the seniors, especially, don’t want to end the season with a bad taste in their mouths like last year.”
Franklin Central: The Flashes return six players who started in the 2013 4A championship game, led by Tori Luster (.341, six HRs, 19 RBIs); Delaney Thompson (.366, four HRs, 11 RBIs); and Taylor Wilson (.333). First-team all-state pitcher Gabby Snyder has graduated, but Shelby Herron (6-2, 2.85 ERA) is back.
Tri-West: A season that ended with a 3A state title has the Bruins thinking repeat. Five starters are back, led by the dangerous bat of Claire Johnson (.471, seven HRs, 47 RBIs, 46 runs). Lizzie Meyer hit .519 with 29 RBIs and 30 runs last spring, while Sammie Miller drove in 25 runs while hitting .402. Pitcher Marita Van Dyke also returns after going 16-1 with a 1.12 ERA last year.
Scecina: Like Tri-West, the Crusaders are seeking a second-straight title. Ace Michelle Rogers is back, joining Justice Carmichael (.363, 23 runs); Megan Whisler (10 RBIs); Bridget Connor (18 runs); Lea Thompson (.432, six steals) and Caroline Friendly, who had seven RBIs in just seven at-bats last season.
Five players to watch
Brittany Gray, Greenwood: The University of Georgia-bound Gray, a first-team all-state selection last year, hurt teams at the plate and throwing the ball across it last season. She batted .500 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs; on the mound, she was 9-3 with a 0.78 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 72 innings.
Bailey Benefiel, Pendleton Heights: Also a first-team all-state player, Benefiel was 16-4 with a 1.09 ERA last year, striking out 172 batters in 1221/3innings. She’ll play for Jefferson College in Missouri next season.
Ashlyn Montgomery, Lebanon: A Valparaiso University signee, Montgomery was dominant on the mound last season, going 23-2 with a 0.80 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 167 innings pitched. She also batted .459 with a home run and 20 RBIs.
Emily Prather, Roncalli: One of her team’s top hitters last season, Prather batted .484 with two home runs, 11 doubles and 37 RBIs. She also scored 33 runs for the Rebels.
Michelle Rogers, Scecina: In helping lead her team to a state title, Rogers was 15-6 with a 1.59 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 1231/3innings. An equally potent hitter, she batted .389 with four home runs, 31 RBIs and 11 doubles. She’ll play for Eastern Illinois University next season.