Pitching key for reigning CLC champion Tigers

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


ROBYN BITTER, Howards Grove senior catcher, is a key player for the Tigers this softball season. Bitter was on the All-CLC first team last year. — Review file photo ROBYN BITTER, Howards Grove senior catcher, is a key player for the Tigers this softball season. Bitter was on the All-CLC first team last year. — Review file photo HOWARDS GROVE – The development of a young, inexperienced pitching staff will be a major factor in the success of the Howards Grove Tigers’ 2014 softball season.

The Tigers lost 2013 All-Central Lakeshore Conference firstteam pitcher Katie Sohn to graduation. Junior Lyndsay Peterson, who did some pitching last year, is being counted on to be Howards’ No. 1 hurler this season, supported by sophomore Corra Gumm and freshman Taylor Bubolz.

Tiger head coach Tom Heier expects a strong offense and defense to support the pitching.

“Our ace will be Lyndsay Peterson on the mound. Any development by the younger two pitchers [Bubolz and Gumm] will make the Tigers very tough to beat as it gives us a lot of options and the ability to go 12 deep in a rotation of players,” said Heier who enters his fifth season at HGHS.

Peterson, an All-CLC honorablemention infielder last year, will also play first base this season. She batted a strong .369 overall last year.

The Tigers will be shooting for their fourth straight CLC title. They finished 12-3 in the conference and 13-10 overall. Howards lost in the Division 3 regional semifinals to New Holstein.

HGHS has a young team overall but returns a talented core of players, led by senior catcher Robyn Bitter and senior third baseman Valerie Free who were All-CLC first-team picks a year ago. The Tigers’ other all-league player returning is senior outfielder Sarah Scheiber who was honorable mention.

Bitter is the top returning hitter for Howards, having batted an outstanding .437 in 2013. She is also a fine defensive catcher with a strong arm. Free batted an excellent .380, with Scheiber at .295.

“I am very optimistic about this upcoming season. Our strength is our depth at a variety of positions. We should be an excellent hitting team. My team will be led by Robyn Bitter and Valerie Free,” said Heier.

The Tigers’ other starter back is junior Kara Bell, a second baseman utility player, who hit .324 as a sophomore. In addition to the returning starters, the other letter winners back are senior Amanda Bergman, junior Rachel Kushnier and Gumm.

“The strength of the Tigers the past few years has been the team unity,” said Heier. “We play as a team and do not worry about individual achievements.

“The weakness of the Tigers will be in the youth of the program as they only have four seniors and three juniors in the program,” said the coach.

“Our key to success will be determined by our pitching. I have plenty of depth but limited experience at varsity level games.

“I plan on starting two freshman [infielders Sarah Gardner and Bubolz] and two sophomores [outfielders Gumm and Rachel Kushnier] which makes my lineup extremely young and inexperienced but we will continue to improve as the season progresses.

“I believe we definitely are the team to beat in the conference simply because we are the returning conference champions,” said Heier.

“I see a lot of competition and balance in the league this year. Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah returns the best pitcher in the conference in Aryanna Klemme.

“Random Lake pretty much returns their entire team from last year, meaning they should only improve, and Cedar Grove-Belgium has two very good pitchers who may create problems for the other teams in the conference this year,” Heier added.

Klemme was an All-CLC firstteam pitcher last year as a junior. Elkhart finished second in the league with a 10-4 mark.

HOWARDS GROVE
VARSITY SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
April 3 – @ Random Lake (2)
April 8 – Elkhart Lake (2), here
April 11 – @ Sheboygan Falls
April 15 – @ Cedar Grove-Belgium (2)
April 22 – Random Lake, here
April 24 – @ Elkhart Lake
April 26 – @ New Holstein Invite
April 28 – Winnebago Lutheran, here
April 29 – Sheb. Luth./Kohler, here
May 2 – @ Oostburg
May 6 – Cedar Grove-Belgium, here
May 10 – @ Kewaskum Tourney
May 13 – S. Luth./Koh. (2), @ Sheb.
May 16 – Oostburg (2), here
May 17 – County Inv., @ Sheb. North
May 22 – Regional (1st round)), TBA

HOWARDS GROVE
VARSITY SOFTBALL ROSTER
Seniors – *Amanda Bergman (OF-
3B-1B), *Robyn Bitter (C-utility), *Valerie Free (3B-2B) and *Sarah Scheiber
(OF).
Juniors – *Kara Bell (2B-3B), Jennifer Denhof (OF-P), *Sydney Handel
(OF-2B) and *Lyndsay Peterson (1BP). Sophomores – *Corra Gumm (2BOF P), Alyssa Herwig (OF), *Rachel
Kushnier (OF-2B-C), Shelby Pennings
(OF-1B), Rebecca Scheiber (OF-1B)
and Erin Stange (OF-1B).
Freshmen – Taylor Bubolz (IF-POF), Sarah Gardner (SS-3B-OF) and
Paige Splittgerber (3B-P-OF).
* - Returning letter winner
___________________________


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