HYDE — For a coach with only two letterwinners and a lineup that will feature as many as five or six freshman, Derek Danver is very excited to discover exactly what is in store for his second Clearfield Area High School softball team.
He was greeted by a dozen letterwinners in his first season, but nine were seniors.
Only senior centerfielder Karly Rumsky and junior outfielder-catcher Kyra Mollura are back.
Rumsky, who plans to play at Penn State DuBois next year, was one of the most improved Lady Bison as a junior, more than doubling her batting average to .320 with 24 hits, including five double and three triples, and nine runs batted in.
Mollura was a fixture behind the plate but had only at eight at-bats after hitting .227 as a freshman. She will get many more going forward by flanking Rumsky in the outfield.
“We’re really young, and most teams would be in a rebuild mode with so many underclassmen, but I’m not overlooking this team,” Danver said. “The girls coming in have a lot of experience of playing softball, most of them year-around.”
Freshmen Emma Hipps, Olivia Bender, Lauren Ressler, Kylee Hertlein, Alexis Bumbarger and Alexis Benton have played together, and achieved significant success, at the Little League All-Star and junior high school levels as well as on travel teams.
Making the giant step to varsity is another matter, especially with Clearfield being a member of the Mountain League, which has proven to be one of the toughest leagues in the state for teams in their classifications.
At least four rookies will be in the starting lineup against Bald Eagle Area at the Bison Sports Complex Tuesday, five if Benton gets the nod as the third outfielder.
Hipps will be in the circle with Bender her batterymate and Ressler and Hertlein on the right side of the infield at first base and second base, respectively.
Shortstop will be handled by Bumbarger or Mollura.
If the latter gets the call there, Benton and sophomore Morgan Cheek will flank Rumsky in the outfield.
Holding down the hot corner will be sophomore Casey English, who did appear in six games last season, or junior Alyssa Twigg.
Senior outfielder Sam Wisor, junior third baseman Riley Lonjin, junior outfielder Abby Pennington and sophomore outfielder Paige Rhine round out the roster.
Danver likes the make-up of his youthful pitcher-catcher combination.
“Emma throws hard, and what makes her most successful is she has movement on all her pitches, which is rare for a pitcher that age,” Danver said. “I understand she’s a freshman, but I’m pretty confident with her.”
As he is with Bender behind the plate, which allows Mollura to help out elsewhere.
“Kyra does a good job back there, too, but I trust Olivia because she’s been catching Emma for years. She knows how Emma throws, so I’m having her call pitches.
“Kyra is doing a great job in the outfield, and I don’t know if we can replace her out there right now.”
Bender also will serve as the number two hurler.
“She’s hard-throwing, and once she gets her control down, she can be very effective, too,” Danver said.
His first goal is for the Lady Bison to stay in every game.
“I know the competition we’re up against, one of the toughest conferences in the state, but I expect to step in and compete with every team,” he said. “Then, we want to have a winning record and win a District 9 championship.”
Unlike past years, the Lady Bison won’t have to contend with Punxsutawney or St. Marys for the Class AAAA title.
Danver pointed out Clearfield has dropped to Class AAA for this two-year cycle.
“We’re down a classification, so we’re in with Brookville and Karns City,” he said.
He added preseason practice has been better with favorable weather this month.
“We’ve only had to be inside the gym two times,” Danver said. “Actually, we were outside all last week.”
The 2018 Lady Bison were 9-12 with a nine-inning, 5-4 loss to St. Marys in the district semifinals ending their season and the careers of four seniors with four letters and another three with three monograms.
Shortstop Brooke Cline and left fielder Aspen Bishop were named Mountain League First Team All-Stars, Cline for the third year in a row after being selected to the second team as a freshman.
Both were fixtures in the lineup for four seasons.
Cline, who is playing at Clarion University, wound up with the most hits (112) of any Lady Bison for at least 25 years. A .538 batting average last spring boosted her career mark to .400 to go with 81 runs scored and 42 runs driven in.
Bishop had 27 hits, seven of them home runs, for a .481 average with a team-high 31 RBIs to finish her career with a .320 average and 64 RBIs.
Also earning four letters were pitcher-third baseman Abby Fedder, who worked 207 innings in 50 games, and pitcher-outfielder Eric Hanes, who was in the circle 37 times for 93.1 innings, with near-identical batting averages of .260 and .258, respectively.
The three-year letterwinners were first baseman Makayla Ross (.382 last year, .285 career), right fielder Lindsay Hand (.263) and designated player-infielder Kate Lansberry (.423, 18 RBIs).
Third baseman Kirstin Norman (.292) and second baseman Mackenzie Lansberry (.266), who transferred from Moshannon Valley, were the other seniors.
Harlen Funk has moved up from junior varsity head coach to assist Danver. Nikki Funk and Sandy Bailor will be in charge of the JV program.
The 2018 Lady Bison varsity roster, with (*) designating letterwinner:
Seniors – Karly Rumsky (*), cf; Sam Wisor, of.
Juniors –Casey English, 3b; Riley Lonjin, 3b; Kyra Mollura (*), of, c; Abby Pennington, of; Alyssa Twigg, inf, p.
Sophomores – Morgan Cheek, of; Paige Rhine, of.
Freshmen – Olivia Bender, c, p; Alexis Benton, of; Alexis Bumbarger, ss; Kylee Hertlein, 2b; Emma Hipps, p, if; Lauren Ressler, 1b.
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The schedule, with (ML) for Mountain League games, home games in capitals and all games at 4:30 p.m.:
26 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 29 – HUNTINGDON (ML).
1 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 2 – CURWENSVILLE; 4 – TYRONE (ML); 9 – at Penns Valley (ML); 11 – BRADFORD; 12 – CENTRAL (ML); 15 – at Bellefonte (ML); 18 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 22 – at Glendale; 23 – at Huntingdon (ML); 26 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 29 – at Tyrone (ML).
2 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 7 – at Central (ML); 8 – HOLLIDAYSBURG; 10 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 13 – at Punxsutawney; 13 – at Altoona.