By Chris Chaney
Coming off of a Southern Buckeye Conference American Division co-championship a year ago, the Amelia Lady Barons won’t have a senior on their roster as they begin their march towards the back-to-back crown.
“This season we’re extremely young,” Amelia head coach Kelly Throckmorton said. “We basically have one veteran varsity player — junior Elena McDonald. She’ll probably be our biggest hitter as well as our second baseman. Then, we have a relatively young team after that.”
McDonald will be the Lady Barons’ elder statesman after Amelia saw four All-Conference performers graduate out of the program as well as being without First Team selection Dana Caldwell who decided to hang up her cleats this spring.
McDonald batted .425 last year, knocking in 12 runs and scoring 33 of her own. Classmates Melissa Burg and Hannah Fletcher will add some upperclassman leadership with Fletcher returning to the diamond after a year off spent on the travel volleyball circuit.
The rest of the Lady Barons’ roster will be filled in with second-year players, who despite their lack of experience on paper, gained an invaluable amount last year being thrown into the fire as freshmen.
“We have a few returning sophomores that played last year,” Throckmorton explained. “Maggie Block is now our main catcher and also a pitcher. Shortstop Kyleigh Schultz, Kristen Meyer is an outfielder and our main pitcher Kendall Kaiser (are all back). Another catcher-outfielder, Jordan Dickerson, played a little last year and then the remainder of our girls are new to varsity this year.”
Lexy Tucker will be the Lady Barons’ first baseman, Gabriella Sanfillippo will man center field and utility players Courtney Brown and Laina King will fill in around the defense as needed.
Throckmorton expects some growing pains to be part of the early part of the season, but believes that once everyone gets on the same page the Lady Barons could contend again for a league title.
“I know in the field, we’ll probably make some mistakes with us being so young, so we’re going to have to hit the ball like last year to be successful,” the coach said. “I think we’ll come around with that. I have hopes that once we get a few games under our belt and get out the bugs that sometimes inexperienced players go through, we’ll be fine the second half of the season. “
Amelia will have to learn on the fly with their first time through the SBC-American coming in the first two weeks of the season. The exception, however, is that Amelia’s first scheduled face off with co-defending champions, Western Brown, isn’t until April 16 when the Lady Barons will have had some 10 games under their belts.
Throckmorton mentioned that the handicapping of the American Division begins with the Lady Broncos, but a competitive top-five in the league last year has her expecting a tough road to hoe this season.
“Like I said, I think we have a lot of potential to do well, it’s just (a matter of) those mistakes we make, how many will cost us ball games?” Throckmorton said. “We’re going to reach for that league championship again and time will tell. Western Brown will have a good team again this season; Bethel had some strong hitting and good pitching; New Richmond is coming back around and Goshen was rebuilding, so I think we’re all very competitive. Depending on who comes out to play that day and makes the most of the game on the field, we’re all going to be competitive.”
The Lady Barons squared off with Felicity on Tuesday before getting into a stretch of four games out of five against conference opponents beginning with Goshen on Wednesday.