Tigers set their sights high

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The contributions from several underclassmen will be crucial for the Howards Grove softball team.

The Tigers will be looking to make good improvement over last season when they finished only 7-13 in the Big East Conference and 8-18 overall. HG lost in the first round of Division 3 regional play to Manitowoc Lutheran.

“We will be vastly improved. I am hoping for a finish in the top four in the conference,” said Tiger head coach Tom Heier.

“After so many one-run losses and late-lead losses we are looking to have a breakout season. We have to get through early-season jitters.

“We will be driven by the success of our young players. If they play like experienced varsity players we will be tough to beat,” said Heier who enters his eighth season at the helm.

“We have the potential to be really good, depending on our leadership from our three senior captains and the development of our freshmen. The potential is there to have a huge season.”

The captains are catcherinfielder Sarah Gardner, shortstop pitcher Taylor Bubolz and pitcher-third baseman Paige Splittgerber. Bubolz and Gardner were All-BEC players last season – Bubolz a second-team infielder and Gardner a honorable-men- tion catcher.

Bubolz led HG in batting last season with a .361 average and Gardner hit .322. Gardner was second on the Tigers’ team in RBIs with 18.

The returning starters are Bubolz (shortstop), Gardner (catcher), Splittgerber (pitcher) and sophomores Cassidy Kahl (left fielder), Courtney Binversie (center fielder) and Julia Carnley (second baseman). Carnley played third base last year. The starters make up the list of returning letter winners.

The Tigers’ three new starters are freshmen – Zayla Mueller (third baseman), Chloe Dirker (first baseman) and Evelynn Spaeth (right fielder).

“Our strength is we are much faster. We will only go so far as our youth potential allows,” said Heier.

A concern for Heier is that the team is very young. The roster includes eight freshmen and only five upperclassmen.

“I expect Bubolz, Splittgerber and Gardner to lead this team. This is our strength defensively up the middle and will be the heart of our batting lineup,” he said.

Heier sized up the conference competition.

“I predict Mishicot and Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah at the top of the league as Mishicot returns pitcher Alyssa Ahumada while Elkhart returns most of its starting lineup,” he said.

“Random Lake returns its top pitcher [Cathryn Hiller] but lost its entire infield to graduation. I also believe Reedsville and Manitowoc

Lutheran will be in that next level of teams.”

Ahumada and Hiller were All- BEC first-team pitchers in 2016. Random Lake is the defending BEC champion.

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