Craig softball team will rely on rookie pitchers
JANESVILLE--The Janesville Craig softball team might dust off its blueprint from 2013 and use it again this year.
The Cougars finished two games above .500 overall and in the Big Eight Conference last season, but they saved their best for last. They won a WIAA Division 1 regional title and came up just two victories short of a state tournament appearance.
“We want to be a competitive team by the end of the year,” Craig coach Dan Bayreuther said. “That might mean we might struggle a little bit with two freshman pitchers and a new first and second baseman, but hopefully we can be pretty competitive when we get some good outside time and go from there.”
The season is scheduled to begin Saturday at 10 a.m. with a doubleheader with Milton and Fort Atkinson at the Janesville Youth Sports Complex.
Bayreuther said he’s never coached a left-handed starting pitcher, but this year he’s got a pair of them. Freshmen Julia Humphrey and Jenna Brandt will open the season as the Cougars starters.
“There’s a little pressure on them, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll throw strikes,” Bayreuther said. “That’s the one thing we’re preaching to them.”
That’s because Craig expects to have a steady set of infielders.
Junior Al Hughes was a first-team all-Big Eight selection at shortstop a year ago thanks to her defensive prowess.
“She can do everything well,” Bayreuther said. “She’s a good fielder, has a strong arm, and I think she’s really going to have a breakthrough year hitting.”
Returning starter Gabby Loveland gets the nod at third base and has experience pitching, while sophomore Kayla Kaufman is expected to start at second base. The Cougars have no returning experience at first, where juniors Cara Lemirande, Laura Heilman and Emily Sarow will compete for time.
And Craig’s young pitchers will have the luxury of an experienced catcher with three-time letter-winner Sarah Holford behind the dish.
“Sarah’s done a good job with them,” Bayreuther said. “She’s caught a lot of innings for us, and it’s going to be her job to settle them down when they need to be settled down.”
Two-year starter Sydney Cramer will be the leader in the outfield, as the junior will start in center field. Senior Kayley Hackett also has experience and will start in right. Seniors Olivia Bolton and Megan Monroe and junior Candace Schleisner will compete for the spot in left.
“The first thing is we have to rally around Hughes, Loveland, Holford, Cramer and Hackett,” Bayreuther said. “They all have a wealth of varsity experience, and then after that we’ve just got to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
As long as that riddle is solved in late May, the Cougars will be happy.