HYDE — The next step.
That’s what coach Bob Lewis wants to see from his fifth Clearfield Area High School softball team that has only one senior but eight returnees, with five owning two letters.
The Lady Bison have made gradual progress since he took the reins, including a semifinal win over St. Marys in last year’s District 9 Class AAA Playoffs.
Cracking the upper echelon of the Mountain League, finally clearing the .500 record barrier and bringing home the district’s first Class AAAA championship trophy in the PIAA’s new six-classification format are objectives.
The combination critical to achieving that success, according to Lewis, is a turnaround season at the plate and making a high percentage of the plays behind Erica Hanes and Abby Fedder, who probably will split time in the circle after pitching a combined 46-2/3 innings the last two seasons.
Last spring, the Lady Bison swung bats at a very disappointing .212 clip with just 20 extra base hits and were guilty of more than two misplays per game that opponents capitalized on for 57 unearned runs, resulting in a 9-13 finish.
Their 1-0 loss to Punxsutawney in the district title game was a microcosm of their season. They were held to two singles in their seventh shutout loss, which was decided by an unearned run that spoiled a four-hit performance by Raleigh Redden.
“We definitely have to improve our team batting average, and we set a goal of getting up to .300,” Lewis said. “We have two pitchers with some varsity experience who are gonna get their share of strikeouts, but they’re not strikeout pitchers, so we’ll have to play really good defense behind them to build their confidence as they grow into their roles.”
Hanes was 0-1 with a 4.14 earned run average for 22 innings and Fedder was 1-2 with a 7.68 ERA for 13-2/3 innings last year.
Both right-handers made seven appearances with two starts as Redden, now pitching for Juniata College, got the nod 18 times and logged 103-2/3 innings with an 8-10 record and a 2.36 ERA. She was named to the All-Mountain League second team.
“Raleigh had a great senior year, and we’re gonna miss her in the circle for all the innings she had, but we have two good, solid pitchers,” Lewis said. “Erica has good velocity and has developed a nice changeup and locates her pitches really well. Abby mixes a curve ball and changeup and keeps the ball down well, too.”
Molly Sartin, a two-year letterwinner, is the lone senior.
Juniors Hanes, Fedder, Brooke Cline and Aspen Bishop also are two-year veterans, with classmates Mikayla Ross, Lindsay Hand and Kate Lansberry the other returnees.
Only four will be back at their same positions, Ross at first base, Cline at shortstop, Bishop in left field and Hand in right field.
Cline and Bishop are coming off breakout seasons at the plate which landed them on the All-ML first team and second team, respectively.
Cline led the Lady Bison in hitting (.389), hits (28) and runs (12) and stolen bases (9-for-10) in her role as the leadoff batter, while Bishop had team-highs in runs batted in (16) and doubles (6), was second hits (19) and tied for second in runs (10). Her .284 average was second among the fulltime starters.
Sartin will go behind the plate after getting two starts there last year and will be backed up by freshman Kyra Mollura, who will open the season at third base.
Hanes and sophomore Makeeli Redden will split time at second base.
Sophomore Karly Rumsky has settled in between Bishop and Hand in the outfield.
Lewis projects Lansberry filling a utility role at first base, in right field and as the designated player.
Fedder or junior Kirstin Norman will get the call for third base when Mollura is catching.
Norman and junior Marissa Sunderland are other DP candidates.
Lewis would like to see the Lady Bison be in contention for the ML title even though Clearfield’s best finish in the last four years was 5-9.
“You’ve got to put it before the kids,” he explained. “The league is so highly competitive, and everybody has pretty decent pitching.
“Philipsburg-Osceola, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte and Central have been there for years and battle it out at the top, but I think we’ve closed the gap. Our kids are doing what they need to do to get better.
“We just have to win some games against those teams. We lost some we should have won last year.”
Clearfield, which is scheduled to open against Central at Martinsburg Tuesday, again will be meeting Curwensville, Glendale, Punxsutawney, Bradford, Hollidaysburg and Altoona in important non-league games that will help determine whether they go back to the postseason.
“The kids got a taste of playoff ball last year in the district title game, and I think they used that as motivation for all the hard work they put in during the offseason,” Lewis said. “I think we’re ready to take the next step.”
Fred Redden and Todd Vanderburgh are the varsity assistant coaches. Sandy Bailor and Eric Scaife will coach the junior varsity squad.
Third baseman Sierra Jones and center fielder Karlie Lewis were the other seniors on the 2016 team.
The 2017 Lady Bison roster, with (*) designating letterwinner:
Senior – Molly Sartin (*), c.
Juniors – Aspen Bishop (*) lf; Brooke Cline (*), ss; Abby Fedder (*) p, 3b; Lindsay Hand (*), rf; Erica Hanes (*), p, 2b; Kate Lansberry (*), 1b, dp; Kirstin Norman, 3b, dp; Makayla Ross (*), 1b; Marissa Sunderland, of.
Sophomores – Chloe Bower, of; Skyler Bumbarger, 1b; Aspen Henschel, of; Laura Lanager, ss; Riley Paul-Cook, of; Makeeli Redden, 2b, dp; Karly Rumsky, cf; Lindsay Shaw, 2b; Jaden Wetzel, 3b; Samantha Wisor, of.
Freshmen – Lauren Coleman, 2b, p; Casey English, c; Maddie Lewis, 1b, dp; Rileigh Lonjin, 3b; Taylor Marshall, of; Tesa Miller, 1b, c; Kyra Mollura, 3b, ss, c, p; Abby Pennington, of; Alyssa Twigg, p; Emilee Owens, of.
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The schedule, with (ML) for Mountain League games, home games in capitals and all games at 4:30 p.m. unless noted:
28 – at Central (ML); 31 – HUNTINGDON (ML).
3 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 6 – at Tyrone (ML); 7 – CURWENSVILLE; 10 – at Punxsutawney 11 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 13 – at Penns Valley (ML); 18 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 20 – CENTRAL (ML); 25 – at Huntingdon (ML); 28 – at Bellefonte (ML).
1 – TYRONE (ML); 3 -at Glendale, 7 p.m.; 4 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 9 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 11 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 15 – HOLLIDAYSBURG; 16 – at Altoona; 18 – BRADFORD.