By GREG MENGELT
In late May, the 2013 Providence softball team has a chance to do something no other Pioneer squad has ever done: Win back-to-back sectional titles.
Last year, Providence won its second sectional title ever. Pioneers’ coach Sean Payne believes he has the talent to achieve history this season.
“We’ve talked about it as a team,” Payne said. “I’ve told the girls we have a chance to do what no Providence team has ever done. It would be something for our girls to hang their hat on, something for our senior class to be remembered for.”
“That’s definitely something we’re striving for,” Providence senior Meredith Endris said. “I think we have good potential this year to go far.”
Despite losing five seniors from last year’s team, Providence may have better overall talent this year.
“This is the most talented team that we’ve had since I’ve been running the show at Providence,” Payne said.
With some incoming freshmen who have been playing softball all their lives and with several returning starters and part-time players returning from last year’s title team, the Pioneers may have more total softball experience aboard in 2013.
“It doesn’t concern me because players are filling the roles,” Payne said of losing five seniors. “We have several players who started for us at times last year and played big roles on the team. They have a lot of experience.”
“We’re really probably more experienced than we were the last few years, and everybody got better over the last year working hard in the offseason,” Endris said. “Everybody was out on the field all the time.”
Not only are the Pioneers a hard-working team, but they always enjoy playing as a unit.
“One reason why I think this team will have success is they love the game, and you can tell they enjoy being around each other,” Payne said. “It’s refreshing to see.”
The Pioneers beat Paoli 6-4 in last year’s Class 2A Crawford County Sectional championship. It’s likely Providence will have to go through the Rams and cross-town rival Clarksville to win consecutive crowns.
Providence will go to Clarksville on Tuesday.
“They’re in the same town as us — it’s a big rivalry,” Pioneer senior Morgan Boone said. “They’re always a tough team to face. Knowing that we could face them again in the sectional motivates our team a lot.”
“Our sectional’s going to be tough,” Payne admitted. “Clarksville, Paoli and Henryville are all improved. There are better teams in our sectional this year. But I feel like we can get the job done is we do what we feel we can do.”
The best way to prepare his Pioneers is by forcing them to play a tough schedule.
With no conference, Providence can schedule who it wants and Payne has chosen to play New Albany, Jeffersonville, Floyd Central, Madison, Charlestown and Silver Creek in Indiana and Jeffersontown, Sacred Heart and in the Southern Spring Bash in Kentucky.
“We’ve tested them early,” Payne said. “Last year, [former News and Tribune sports editor] Matt Koesters asked me if I was crazy to put them through the schedule I’ve put them through. This year, it’s even stronger. Since we don’t have a conference, it’s the best way I know to get them ready [for the tournament]. It’s been a really challenging schedule, but we’ve played well in every game we’ve played.”
“We play a really tough schedule,” Boone said. “We get to face a lot of teams not from around here. Some better competition helps prepare us for the sectional.”
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Alli Webster, Charlestown
On Thursday, April 4, Webster gave up just one run and struck out 10 Corydon Central batters in five innings as Charlestown prevailed 12-1. She then tossed a one-hit shutout as the Pirates defeated the host Pioneers to win the Providence Invitational last weekend.
LAST WEEK’S OTHER TOP PERFORMANCES
• Caroline Cato, Floyd Central: Cato combined with Blake Dykes in a 13-0 win over Clarksville last Friday. On Tuesday, Cato held New Albany to a single run on five hits and 11 strikeouts in the Highlanders’ 2-1 triumph over the rival Bulldogs.
• Ali Sparkman, Clarksville: Sparkman went 3-for-4 with two triples, two runs scored and two RBIs as the Generals defeated Crawford County on Tuesday, April 2.
• Olivia Scarbrough, Silver Creek: Scarbrough had a double and three RBIs as the Dragons won at Madison 10-2 on Saturday.
• Kayleigh Thomas, Jeffersonville: Thomas gave up just two hits and stuck out four Mustangs in the Red Devils’ 8-1 win over New Washington on Wednesday.
• Kassie King, Floyd Central: King surrendered just one run on four hits and struck out eight Olympians as the Highlanders defeated Columbus East on Thursday, April 4, 7-1.
• McKenzie Bush, Silver Creek: Bush went 3-for-4 and was the winning pitcher in the Dragons’ 10-6 victory over Seymour on April 4.