Coach: Tom Artino, first season
Returning letterwinners: Senior Autum Kuzma (IF). Junior Sierra Shope (OF). Sophomores Mercedes Omlor (3B/C); Roni Daughenbaugh (OF); Kendalyn Sarka (OF).
Others: Senior Morgan Schalk (P); Autumn Taylor (OF). Juniors Macey Shock (IF); Sam Gaietto (C); Mackenzie Moyer (IF). Sophomores Hannah Hupp (3B/P); Abby Steward (OF); Bre Coffman (P/OF). Freshman Brittany DuMonte (Utl.)
Outlook: After serving as a varsity assistant last year, Artino moves to the top spot this year. His daughter Bess, who was coaching last year, took a graduate assistant job at Heidelberg.
He takes over a team without a lot of experience, only five letterwinners return and only three seniors are on the roster. But he says some of last year's freshmen got a lot of key varsity time, and looks for them to continue their development this year.
"Our freshmen got a lot of playing time last year so I'm counting pretty heavily on them picking up where they left off, cause they had pretty good second halves," he said.
Artino says one of the top attributes his team possesses is speed, which should make for a solid defense.
"I think overall as far as team-wise, defensively, we got a lot of good speed," he said. "Our defense is coming along good. We're quick in in the outfield and got good arms. We can cover caps good, and I don't think we'll be giving up a lot extra base hits. I think our girls have a better understanding of the angles to take. Our infielders are playing all new positions. It might take a while to get that down, but there's a lot of quickness there too. I think defensively we can play with anybody in the league."
Led by his five returners, Artino also lists hitting as an area of strength. While some teams have struggled to get outside due to the weather, Columbian has been fortunate to get out and get a good look at the team.
"As far as hitting goes, I think that will be our strong point," Artino said. "We've been able to get out on the turf a little bit. We went down to TU while they were on spring break. We to got to see what's what. We got a little bit of power and overall team speed. We should be doing a lot of small ball.
Artino listed Kuzma, Omlor, Daugenbaugh, Sarka and Shope as the offensive leaders, but also said some of the newcomers can swing a good bat.
"Sam Gaietto has got some power," Artino said. "It's her first year as varsity. From what I've seen so far, she'll be all right. We got four, five girls that played summer ball. You can see it when they came in this year from last year. The girls that played travel ball, you see the improvement. They're faster, stronger, and got a quicker bat."
The question mark though will be pitching where the team brings back very little experience. Schalk pitched JV for the Tornadoes and will handle the bulk of the duties. Coffman has pitched in summerball, and will also get some innings.
"I think it'll boil down to pitching-wise, being able to hit our spots," Artino said. "We might not strike a lot of girls out, but we can make them put the ball in play and use our defense. The biggest thing, we got to stay away from big innings. We need stay away form walks and errors and mistakes. If we can hit our spots pitching, I think we'll be alright."