Friday, March 22, 2024
Lexi Daigle
Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT

After several years of finding a wall in South Vermillion in sectional play, North Putnam finally got over the barrier at the Southmont Sectional, rallying twice in the final two innings to finally unseat the Wildcats with a 7-6 win.

The run for North Putnam ended at Cascade in the regional round and replicating the success of 2023 will be the job of a very different looking Cougar squad.

Cloverdale also found its way to a sectional final, picking up a pair of wins over Bloomfield and Shakamak before falling to semistate qualifier Clay City.

North Putnam

The Cougars finished 2023 with the trifecta of the Putnam County Softball tournament title, the Putnam County Paddle and a sectional title, finishing with a 20-10 record.

Replicating the success of last year will require a much different approach, however, as six seniors departed in Brilye Schmitz, Ashlynn Stacks, Kyndal Brewer, Kylie Rust, Karyssa Miller and Putnam County Player of the Year and South All-Star Emma Williams, leaving enormous holes at the plate, in the field and in the circle to fill.

Three starters return in Lexi Daigle, Hailee Daigle and Bailee Pride while Camryn Riggle got a couple of innings in the circle as a freshman.

The entire infield will look different with the six graduates having manned all six infield positions while the offense will require a new approach having lost 198 hits and 134 RBIs from a year ago.

Morgan Mason, Mackenzie Mason and Maelyn Gibbs, role players a year ago, will see significantly increased roles to start the year while Callee Riggle and Jacy Huffman will double up from track to add additional athleticism to the field.

“The 2024 rendition will be a reloading season with a lot of power graduated from last year’s Putnam County and sectional champion team,” North Putnam head coach Kerry Roussey said. “ The Cougars will be focused on speed this year to generate runs.

“Defensively, will be solid and much of success will depend upon the confidence level and who will step up to lead the Cougars at the plate each night. We will see this role change from game to game as we have many new faces.”


Another team that requires a major retooling will be the Tiger Cubs, who pushed South Vermillion hard in the Southmont Sectional semifinal, having earlier dragged North Putnam into a 12-iinning battle in the county tournament final.

Like the Cougars, Greencastle also graduated six seniors from a team that went 13-13 in 2023 and lost most of its offensive production in the process in Sydney Lantzy, Emma Hunter, Kenzie Epley, Elisee Lausee, Oliva Richardville and Gloria Brewer.

Unlike their northern neighbors, the Tiger Cubs have a solid building block in the circle as Ali Hassler pitched 154 innings with a 2.36 ERA as a freshman while Allie Beaman and Haley Iseman return with 20 innings of work between them.

The trio also return as the leading batters for the squad, along with Emma West, while returners Hayley Owens, Lilly Franklin and Makenzie Creviston will be thrown into the lineup, as will incoming freshmen Sarah Simmerman and Katie Detro, the latter taking over behind the plate.

“We are such a young team this year and it’s going to take some rebuilding with only one senior, but the attitude of practices so far has been amazing,” Greencastle head coach Amy Coons said. “We’ve really focused on playing for the success of the team and each team member over playing for yourself and the girls seem to be all in.

“We certainly lost a lot of firepower at the plate. Offense has been our pre-season focus. Ali is difficult to hit and our hope is to keep our opponents’ scoring to a minimum, but we have to be able to put runs on the scoreboard.

“Haley and Emma have power and have proven that the past two years and Allie is a confident base hit batter,” Coons added. “Our field will look a lot different but we have some pretty strong leaders ready to step up and fill those shoes.”


The Clovers started 2023 on the right foot with three wins in their first four games and were at .500 through eight games before only winning once more the rest of the regular season.

But in sectional play, Cloverdale avenged one of its early losses to Bloomfield before adding another win over Greene County opposition in Shakamak before falling to Clay City.

Three consistent bats and fielders were lost with the graduation of Erin Johnson, Andrea Nees and Hailey Caulkins, the latter also throwing 64 innings in the circle.

Callie Smith threw 56 innings while Paisley Meyerrose added another 21 innings in the circle, the latter one of the leading returners at the plate along with senior Keelie Price, who returns after leading the team in RBIs (28) and second in hits (26) a year ago.

Jumping from one win to a 7-18 mark took some doing and further climbing will require several players to step up at the plate.

“We kept improving as the season went along last season,” Cloverdale head coach Jamie Steffy said. “When we went through our rough two-week stretch, playing several ranked and larger class teams, we knew we were getting better. We just had to stay the course because we knew we were going into a Class A sectional with a chance to win it.

“Being the only Class A softball team in the county and conference, with everyone else being in larger classifications, meant our season-long improvement paid off. Only three teams in the county and conference played for a sectional championship last season and we were one of them.

“We have a more balanced, more athletic team this year in year two of rebuilding our program,” Steffy added. “We are still a very young team with 10 of our 13 girls are either freshman or sophomores, with no juniors and three seniors, but the buy-in to our total program has been awesome.

“You can just go by the eyeball test and see we are faster and stronger from the work we have put in the weightroom since last season. We talk every day within our team that the goal is to be sectional champions and what we have to do to put ourselves in a position to accomplish this goal.

“The mindset we are instilling with the Cloverdale softball program is that this is the expectation each softball season, not just the exception.”

South Putnam

The youngest team in the county a year ago, the Eagles struggled to get the offense going most of the year and, despite picking up three WIC wins, finished 5-17 in 2023.

South Putnam is the only county team to see turnover in the coaching ranks and Kenny Wells takes over a team with plenty of experience but several sub-.500 seasons in recent years.

All three double-digit run producers return for the Eagles in seniors Peyton Freeman and Jaicee Jackson and sophomore Lilah Holderfield while multi-year starters Danae Cline and Chlara Pistelli add defensive security in the infield.

Jackson, Aly Pingleton and Addi Gibson return all the innings in the circle from a year ago but a large incoming freshman group will provide additional arms for the team to work with.

“My first goal when I took over this program was to change the mindset and thought process of this team and really our entire program,” Wells said. “I saw a group of girls that love to play softball but really didn’t have any expectations of winning games, so from the beginning, I have set expectations and goals and have got the girls to buy in to expecting good things to happen.

“My coaching staff of Jim Holderfield, Trent Thompson and Haley Cooley have been a huge part in helping me do this. I am very excited about the team we have put together this year. We do have several players returning from last year who were able to get a lot of playing time and experience at the varsity level.

“Some of them will be playing different positions than last year,” Wells added. “My coaching staff and I have seen some changes we want to make in terms of where we think each player will help us the most and I believe the girls have been very responsive to those changes so far.

“I will certainly be looking for that experience to help us this year. I also have an incoming group of freshman who are ready to play and will see the field a lot this year

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