By KEVIN HARRIS
Chelsea Jordan knows what it takes to be successful in the game of softball.
During her standout career at New Albany High School, Jordan made the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association All-State team in 2008 and 2009.
After she graduated from New Albany in 2009, Jordan took her talents to the University of Louisville. During her tenure with the U of L softball program, the Cardinals advanced to the NCAA tournament and got ranked in the top-25 poll each year from 2010-12.
In 2014, Jordan hopes that some of her past achievements will rub off on the Jeffersonville High School softball program.
Jordan is the Red Devils’ new coach, replacing former Jeff boss Jodi Bradley. Jordan wants to instill two qualities in the Devils that she inherited in her time as a Bulldog and a Cardinal.
“Some of the biggest things are passion and a desire about the game,” Jordan said. “I brought it up to our players in our games [on Monday at North Oldham (Ky.)]. I told them that you’ve got to fight.”
Along with implementing a competitive nature at Jeff, Jordan also has changed the way the Red Devils are practicing.
“I’ve put in the practice structure like the one at U of L. There is a lot of one-on-one work and a lot of teamwork,” Jordan said. “We’re trying to employ more of a fundamental foundation. We want to build a program that’s going to be tough for years to come.”
Jordan says the main strength of her new squad is its experience. Despite having only two seniors, the Red Devils have 10 returning letterwinners from last year’s 14-9 team.
The pair of seniors are shortstop Emma Coons and third baseman Courtney Shepherd. Coons has signed a national letter of intent to play softball next season at Northern Kentucky University.
Seven of the 10 returning players are juniors, led by pitcher Emily Gray. The rest of the juniors are Tori Flaten, Macy Neese, Mary Pat Geary, Dayt’n Minton, Courtney Fifer and Sydney Fifer.
“We do have a lot of returnees,” Jordan said. “They communicate with each other well. I’ve got a lot of kids who are dedicated to be better. They want to take it to the next level.”
One area of concern for Jordan is she wants to see her new players execute the fundamentals on a consistent basis.
“We lack some of the fundamental skills. We have the tools, but we have some things to work through right now,” Jordan said.
Jordan thinks Jennings County and Floyd Central are the top contenders to win this year’s Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament. She says the toughest teams on her nonconference schedule are Louisville Holy Cross, Evansville Harrison and Evansville North.
By late May, Jordan expects the Red Devils to be playing at a high level.
“By the end of the season, I expect our team to be fighting for a sectional championship. I expect them to be fighting in every inning,” Jordan said.
• COACH: Chelsea Jordan (first season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-9.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Tori Flaten, Jr., C; Demetria Towns, So., C; Emily Gray, Jr., P; Macy Neese, Jr., P; Courtney Shepherd, Sr., 3B; Emma Coons, Sr., SS; Mary Pat Geary, Jr., 1B; Dayt’n Minton, Jr., OF; Courtney Fifer, Jr., OF; Sydney Fifer, Jr., OF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Jennifer Peffley, Fr., CF; Juliette Schuur, Fr., IF; Baylie Sprague, Jr., OF/IF.
• OUTLOOK: Jordan is trying to instill a new culture within the Red Devil softball program. The former New Albany and University of Louisville player wants her new players to play with more passion and determination. Jordan inherits 10 returning letterwinners, but she wants her team to be more fundamentally sound by the postseason.
• JORDAN SAYS: “We’re trying to employ more of a fundamental foundation. We want to build a program that’s going to be tough for years to come.”
REST OF THE AREA TEAMS
• COACH: Alex Knerr (third season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 3-13.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Caitlin McKinley, Sr., 1B/OF; Shelbie Farvour, Sr., P/SS; Paige Weatherford, Sr., 3B/OF; Kristen Nestor, Jr., C; McKency Terflinger, Jr., 3B/OF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Paige Schindler, Fr., P; Riley Schindler, Fr., 2B; Haley Shouse, Fr., 1B; Taylor Streander, Fr., 3B.
• OUTLOOK: Eight of Borden’s 13 players are freshmen. But the Braves have a few veteran players who have been with the program since it started four years ago, and they should provide some leadership. Knerr has strengthened the schedule this season to help her younger players develop their skills.
• KNERR SAYS: “I’m really excited about this season. My upperclassmen have worked extremely hard the last couple years and with the addition of all of our freshmen, it should be a fun year. I always tell the girls that there are going to be those games that are difficult to win. But I want them to stay confident and just compete.”
• COACH: Kevin Zollman (13th season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 22-5.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Cassie Martin, Sr., OF; Kaitlynn Henning, Jr., SS; Shelby Goedeker, Jr., 1B; Carly Price, So., P/1B; Lexi Logsdon, So., P/2B; Leah Sherrill, So., OF; Bethany Hall, So., C/3B.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Kendall Cline, Fr., P; McKenzie Smith, Fr., C/OF.
• OUTLOOK: The Pirates lost three key players from last year’s Class 3A Salem Sectional championship team in Alli Webster, Alyssa Price and Gracynn Jennings. But Zollman thinks Charlestown has the tools to contend for the Mid-Southern Conference title and make another sectional championship run. Zollman says Brownstown Central and Silver Creek will be the teams to beat in the MSC and the Class 3A sectional.
• ZOLLMAN SAYS: “This will be a tough season in trying to replace the senior class from last year. But I expect to battle for another conference and sectional title with the team we have.”
• COACH: Tim Hauber (17th season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 10-15.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Ali Sparkman, Sr., SS; Kayla Wallace, Jr., CF; Kaitlyn Hall, Jr., 3B; Meghan Hall, Jr., LF; Danielle Pace, Jr., RF; Bailey Sharp, So., P; Kate Wingler, Sr., 1B.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Kaitlin Page, Fr., 2B; Ciara Early, So., C.
• OUTLOOK: The Generals will try to bounce back from the worst record ever posted in Hauber’s tenure. The veteran Clarksville coach hopes to see improvement from Sharp on the mound. The Generals face a challenging schedule that includes MSC foes Salem, Silver Creek, Brownstown and Charlestown and nonconference teams in Jeff, New Albany, Floyd Central and Providence.
• HAUBER SAYS: “I’m expecting Bailey Sharp to be much improved. Last year, she was just a thrower. But this year, she took the first step in being a pitcher. She has more command and is hitting her spots better.”
• COACH: Samantha Reynolds (first season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 2-19.
• OUTLOOK: The Musketeers will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign. That will not be easy with Eastern playing in the competitive MSC and facing tough nonconference foes like Providence and Lanesville.
• NOTE: Reynolds could not be reached for comment. Eastern’s returning letterwinners and newcomers could not be obtained at press time.
• COACH: Scott Castleberry (second season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 20-6.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Taylor McClure, Sr., C/OF; Taylor Batliner, Sr., 1B/2B; Morgan Harper, Sr., P/OF; Kassie King, So., P/1B; Regan Hadley, So., C/3B/SS; Gabbi Jenkins, So., SS/OF; Clara Shean, Jr., OF; Caroline Cato, Sr., P/1B; Katelin Dreher, Sr., 1B/2B.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Taylor Castleberry, Fr., OF; Maddie Probus, So., 2B/3B/SS; Paige Meyer, Fr., OF; Amber Mahan, Sr., 1B/3B; Jensen Striegel, Fr., OF.
• OUTLOOK: The Highlanders have the experience, the pitching and the depth to compete for the HHC Tournament and Class 4A sectional championships. But Coach Castleberry thinks his team must stick together through tough times if it is to win those titles. The second-year coach says Floyd Central’s main competition for the conference and sectional crowns is Jennings County and Bedford North Lawrence.
• COACH CASTLEBERRY SAYS: “This year we are taking it one pitch at a time and one game at a time and playing for this season as one team. We have to compete hard in practice, and at the same time support each other and celebrate extraordinary efforts. As a coach, my expectations are pretty simple — work hard preparing to play, and when it’s game time, go out and have fun playing the game as one team.”
• COACH: Jenny Schroeder (eighth season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 13-14.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Spencer Whitehouse, Sr., 1B; Ashtyn Kaskie, Jr., P; Emily Stewart, Jr., C; Audrey VanMeter, Jr., util.; Emily Hollis, So., SS; Emma Hendricks, So., 3B.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Peyton Ottersbach, Fr., P; Sam Roth, Fr., util.; Hannah Nunn, Fr., util.
• OUTLOOK: Like the Generals, the Hornets will attempt to rebound after posting their worst mark during their coach’s tenure. Despite last season’s below-.500 record, Schroeder says her team’s goals remain high. She thinks Lanesville is the favorite to win the Southern Athletic Conference.
• SCHROEDER SAYS: “Coming off our first losing season since I have been the coach, the expectation is as it always is — be competitive with every team we play and have a winning season with the goal of advancing in the postseason. We expect to improve upon last season’s performances.”
• COACH: Steve Belden (eighth season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 21-6.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Hannah Morton, Jr., P; McKenzie Gill, Jr., P/OF; Brook McCoy, Jr., 1B; Kennedy Wynn, So., 2B; Hannah Veit, Jr., SS; Whitney Atkins, So., 3B; Danielle Williamson, Jr., C; Jenna Fath, So., OF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Marissa Jones, Fr., util.
• OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs lost only one senior from last year’s team in Brittany Jones. Therefore, they are expected to build off of last year’s 21-6 mark. Belden says the HHC and Class 4A sectional will be challenging with Jennings County, Floyd Central and Jeff in the title mix.
• BELDEN SAYS: “Our goal is to improve our efficiency in all areas of the game in making us the most well-rounded team as possible for the HHC and state tournament. Playing in the HHC — which most of the coaches will agree is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, conference in the state — is a real challenge. But it is one we hope to be ready for.”
• COACH: Tim Sexton (fourth season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-9.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kaitlyn Schindler, Sr., SS/LF; Courtney Roberts, Sr., 2B; Brooke Shaw, Jr., P; Gracie Speigelhalder, Jr., C; Yo Diaz, Jr., OF; Karen Profitt, So., 3B; Bailey Crace, So., SS/OF; Jodi Davidson, So., OF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: none.
• OUTLOOK: Sexton has a young roster that will be facing a difficult schedule. The Mustangs will play in the Bedford Tournament this weekend that includes Floyd Central, followed by games against Silver Creek, Henryville and Jeffersonville in the next two weeks. Sexton says Lanesville is the favorite to win the SAC and the Class A sectional.
• SEXTON SAYS: “I’ll be happy with a .500 record. We probably have the toughest schedule in Class A right off the bat.”
• COACH: Sean Payne (eighth season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 22-9.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Sierra Collett, Sr., P; Jordyn Stengel, Sr., C; Charly Wolford, Sr., RF; Melinda Cochran, Sr., 2B; Jessica Payne, Sr., LF; Lillian Hughes, Jr., 3B; Karly Baumann, Jr., 1B; Jacquie Hornung, So., SS; Marlee Karem, So., CF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Rebecca Hellinger, Jr., 2B; Jaclyn Endris, Jr., OF; Riley Lovan, So., P; Sydney Milliner, Fr., util.; Mia Fougerousse, Fr., OF; Taylor Raymond, Fr., util.
• OUTLOOK: Expectations are high at Providence after the Pioneers reached the Class 2A Forest Park Semistate. Providence welcomes back seven full-time starters. Coach Payne thinks the Pioneers’ challenging regular-season slate will prepare them for the postseason.
• COACH PAYNE SAYS: “With us returning seven full-time starters from our regional championship team, we expect to compete for the sectional and regional title once again assuming we can stay healthy in some key positions. We play a brutally tough schedule and it begins from Game 1. Playing other great teams exposes your weak areas, which allows for more improvement throughout the season.”
• COACH: Dave Harvey (17th season).
• LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-9.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Shayla Cravens, Sr., P; McKenzie Bush, Jr., P/1B; Alexis Barnett, Jr., OF; Bailey Miller, So., util.; Heather Knight, Jr., 2B; Olivia Scarbrough, So., C/IF.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Gabby Jones, So., OF; Haley Baxter, Fr., SS; Hannah Mattingly, Jr., util.
• OUTLOOK: Harvey has several young players on his roster. But he thinks his talented squad can battle for the MSC and Class 3A sectional titles. Harvey thinks Brownstown and Salem are the favorites to win the MSC.
• HARVEY SAYS: “We are young and inexperienced, but we are talented and should improve throughout the season. We should be competitive within our conference and sectional. We play one of the toughest schedules in Southern Indiana.”