Promising young players key to success on diamond for Howards Grove

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Tigers have a young softball team but head coach Tom Heier is optimistic about the 2013 season.

The Tigers have only two returning starters and three seniors but Heier is impressed with a promising group of underclassmen. Howards is looking to win the Central Lakeshore Conference title for the third straight year.

“We are extremely young, having graduated seven seniors. With that being said, we have a very athletic and young group of players from our ninth and 10thgraders,” said Tiger head coach Tom Heier who enters his fourth season at Howards.

The Tigers lost three All-CLC first-team players from last year.

“Howards Grove will put up a fight defending their conference championships from the past few years. Based on what I see at practice and in the batting cages, we should be very tough to beat in our conference this year.”

The Tigers finished 12-0 in the CLC and 17-9 overall. They defeated league rival Oostburg in the Division 3 regional semifi- nals and lost to Horicon in the finals.

The returning starters are senior center fielder Amber Reinemann and junior catcher Robyn Bitter. Reinemann has been an All-CLC first-team pick each of the past three years. Bitter was named to the all-league second team last season when she played third base.

Reinemann batted .395 with 13 RBIs, 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts and 32 runs last season. She led the Tigers in steals and runs, and committed only one error in 26 games.

Bitter hit .367, had 18 RBIs and was 7-for-7 stealing.

Senior Katie Sohn will take over the No. 1 pitching spot from former ace Lexi DeRuyter who graduated after earning All- CLC first-team honors in 2011 and 2012. Sohn was 5-1 with a 3.59 ERA last season. She recorded 32 strikeouts in 39 innings.

“Katie worked on her pitching all last year and all fall and winter. She has a huge confidence in her skills,” Heier said.

“Katie can throw multiple pitches to the spot she wants which makes her a tough pitcher to bat against. The problem will be number of games scheduled and arm strength. Sophomores Samantha Black and Lyndsay Peterson will pick up some innings to help us out this year.”

Heier is counting on Reinemann, Bitter and Sohn to lead the team.

“The Tigers will be strong up the middle. The question mark will be filling the other spots,” said Heier.

“Val Free will take over at third base. Sam black and Lyndsay Peterson will split time at shortstop and first base, and Sarah Scheiber will partner up with Reinemann in the outfield.

“As of right now, we are not committed to a second baseman or a right fielder but it's not because we don't have people to fill those positions. Lindsay Krell will play some duties in right field, second base, and possibly some catching to give Bitter a break,” said the coach.

“Freshman Rachel Kushnier can play all positions but being young, she just needs to get more confidence instilled.

“Amanda Bergman will play right field, some first base, and be a designated hitter for the team. Sidney Handel and Kara Bell give me additional speed and possibilities on the infield as well,” Heier said.

“Many of these younger kids received many innings in junior varsity games last year, and combined with the influence of five new freshmen should give Howards Grove a solid team ready to compete for the conference title.

“The main keys to having a successful run at another CLC title is going to be our youth. We only have three seniors returning this year with four juniors.

“How well these young kids mature in this lineup will determine our success. Amber Reinemann has really taken control as a senior impressing on the younger kids what they have to do so we as a team can be a success,” Heier said.

“I believe the conference will be a tossup this year. Oostburg and Howards have to replace most of their starting lineups, so they will be rebuilding,” he noted.

“Sheboygan Lutheran has their top pitcher [Kyleen Bruckner] returning and center fielder [Haleigh Kaiser] and Cedar Grove will continue building with their young kids from two years ago.

“Random Lake is entering the league with a fast-pitch program this season, and Lutheran and Elkhart Lake are trying to further develop their programs,” Heier said.

Kaiser was an All-CLC first-team outfielder and Bruckner made the second team in 2012.

Oostburg was the CLC runner-up last season with a 9-3 mark and graduated three All-CLC first-team players, including pitcher Hailee Brill.

“We, as a team, would like to get to sectionals this year, if not further,” Heier said.

March 26 – Chilton, here, ppd.
April 5 – @ Kewaskum
April 9 – @ @ Elkhart Lake
April 11 – Sheb. Luth./Koh., here
April 12 – Cedar Grove-Belgium, here
April 16 – @ Oostburg
April 18 – Cedar Grove-Belgium, here
April 20 – @ New Holstein Invite
April 23 – Random Lake (2), here
April 25 – Sheb. Luth./Koh., here
April 26 – Elkhart Lake, here
April 29 – @ Winnebago Lutheran
April 30 – Sheb. Luth./Koh., at Sheb.
May 2 – Oostburg, here
May 3 – @ Cedar Grove-Belgium
May 4 – County Inv., @ Sheb. North

May 7 – @ Random Lake
May 9 – @ Elkhart Lake
May 14 – @ Oostburg


VARSITY SOFTBALL ROSTER Seniors – *Lindsey Krell (OF-C), *Amber Reinemann (CF-SS) and *Katie Sohn (P-1B). Juniors – Amanda Bergman (OF-1B), *Robyn Bitter (3B-C-SS), *Valerie Free (2B-3B) and *Sarah Scheiber (3B-OF). Sophomores – Kara Bell (3B-SS), Samantha Black (1B-P), Sydney Handel (OF), Erin Hanke (utility) and Lyndsay Peterson (SS-P-1B). Freshmen – Corra Gumm (P-OF), Rachel Kushnier (OF-C), Shelby Pennings (OF-1B), Rebecca Scheiber (utility) and Erin Stange (utility). * = Returning letter winner

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