Craig softball team ready to start
The Cougars began last season with four straight losses, but righted their ship to finish 15-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big Eight Conference.
Craig travels to Waunakee on Thursday afternoon for a nonconference season opener.
"With the experience we have back, I hope we get off to a good start," Craig coach Dan Bayreuther said. "With the pitching and the entire infield back, we are a little ahead of where we were last year."
Senior Paige Weber begins her third season as Craig's starting pitcher. Weber owns a 27-12 career record.
Weber went 13-8 with a 2.43 earned run average last season and was an all-conference honorable mention. Weber struck out 105, an average of 5.8 strikeouts, and walked 30 in 22 games.
"Paige has improved a lot," Craig coach Dan Bayreuther said. "We don't want walks, and Paige does not walk a lot of batters."
Freshman Gaby Loveland gives Craig a sturdy No. 2 starter.
"Gaby looked really good in our scrimmage," Bayreuther said. "I won't hesitate to use Loveland if Paige needs a break."
Senior Autum Sullivan returns at catcher. Sullivan took the starting job early last season and made 100 putouts through 130 innings, committing just one error for a .992 fielding percentage.
Craig's infield is solid with sophomore Nicole Kelley at third base, senior Haley Bayreuther at shortstop, junior Kylie Clark at second base and junior Leigh Grall at first base. Sophomore Amanda Trapp and junior Molly Osiecki are utility infielders.
Bayreuther and Grall were first-team All-Big Eight last season. Bayreuther hit .410, and Grall hit .378 and drove in a team-leading 23 runs.
"Leigh is going to hit for some power this year," the Craig head coach said. "She got stronger in the offseason."
Senior centerfielder Stephanie Perleberg, a 2011 first-team all-conference pick, led Craig with a .500 batting average. She hit a team-leading three home runs and posted 19 RBIs.
Senior leftfielder Stephanie Kalish knocked in 20 runs last season and had six extra base hits enroute to a .278 batting average. Freshman Sydney Kramer will play right field.
If Craig needs an extra bat, sophomore Sarah Holford is the designated hitter.
The Craig schedule:
March: 29—At Waunakee. 31—Milton, Fort Atkinson (DH), 10 a.m.-noon.
April: 10—At Parker. 11—At Memorial. 12—Madison East. 17—At Madison West. 19—Verona. 21—Sun Prairie (DH), 10 a.m. noon. 24—At Beloit. 26—Madison La Follette.
May: 1—Madison Memorial. 3—At Middleton. 8—Parker. 10—At Madison East. 15—Madison West. 17—At Verona. 21—At Fort Atkinson. 22—Beloit. 24—At La Follette. 29—WIAA regional.
June: 1—WIAA regional final. 5—WIAA sectional. 8—WIAA sectional final. 14-16—WIAA state tournament.