Dowell says Lady Bulldogs are taking it one day at a time for 2020 season
New Franklin senior Alexia Sprick never knew she was a pitcher until one summer in Boonville.
While playing in the Boonville Babe Ruth Softball League at Rolling Hills park, Sprick said she was forced to pitch and has liked it ever since.
“I’m pretty good at it so I thank Boonville for that,”Sprick said.
Of course Sprick is just one of five seniors that New Franklin head coach Ross Dowell will rely on this season to lead the Lady Bulldogs softball team.
With 18 girls suited out for the 2020 season, nine of which are returning starters, the Lady Bulldogs could be well positioned to make a run in the Central Activities Conference this season as well as the postseason.
“We are trying to play for day to day in the stuff that we are dealing with,” Dowell said. “We want to get to Game 1 and then we are trying for Game 2, Game 5 and Game 10. My second goal is for parents to be able to see the games. We are fighting for defense, offense, playing games and the parents to watch. The seniors have been great leaders and they have finally figured it out. I think they have passed it on to the juniors and sophomores.”
Although the Lady Bulldogs struggled last year at 9-15 overall and 2-5 in the CAC, Dowell said the entire infield was underclassmen so everybody is back. Add that to all three outfielders also returning and New Franklin could be in the conversation along with Cairo, Community and Madison as the top teams in the conference.
“Honestly, I think Cairo, Community and Madison are probably the top three, but the other five teams are very similar. The key for us is keeping our errors and walks to a minimum. We could be very solid defensively and I think the offense will be better and started the turn the corner at the end of last season.”
Dowell also likes what he has seen so far in practice. He said the team is a lot further along right now than they were at this time last year.
“We were very, very basic in what we could do,” Dowell said. “I think if we can eliminate the walks, hit by pitches and errors and not give up big innings, we are going to be in most games.”
That is what Sprick is also counting on. While finishing 9-12 in 2019 with an ERA of 6.03, Sprick also pitched 116 of the teams 139 innings and struck out 56 batters.
Sprick said it’s her goal this fall to focus more on pitching and less walks.
“I think we have the makings of being a pretty good team,” Sprick said. “We’re all learning but I am pretty confident in my team. As a team, I think our goal is to focus and just get along. That’s how you win games.”
Dowell said Sprick will have to be a leader in the circle for the Lady Bulldogs. Other players that will throw some innings this season for New Franklin are senior Annie Benner, junior Abby Maupin, Sophia Held and Kaylen Sprick.
Maupin and Benner combined for a total of 23 innings in 2019.
“We are probably looking at pitcher by committee just for the fact that we don’t have anybody that is overpowering, but they all have different stuff,”Dowell said. “Annie will be more of a reliever just because she had such a great year in the outfield in 2019 and enjoys playing in left. Abby will probably be our middle reliever. We want to get an inning or two from her. The thing that I like about Abby is that she throws completely different than Alexia. Alexia is more in and Abby is more out. Sophia will also throw some varsity innings, but will pitch mostly JV innings being a freshman. As for Kaylen, she picked it up this summer, so she is a work in progress but might get some innings for us in JV.”
At catcher, Dowell said Kayce Hundley will be the every day starter unless New Franklin is playing in tournaments. He said senior Izy Matney could catch a game or two. Kelsi Fair and Ella Oser have also been doing some catching to get ready for the future but will mostly catch JV innings, Dowell said.
Hundley and Matney will also give the Lady Bulldogs some pop in the lineup while hitting .257 and .356, respectively, in 2019. Matney also led the team in singles with 20 and RBIs with 25.
As for the infield, Dowell said that position is still up in the air and will depend on who is pitching. He said the infield is a mess right now. Realistically, he said, Izy will probably leave third and go to first. Other players who could step in and play first are Carly Dorson, Jayna Matthews, Benner and Sprick.
At second, Dowell said Dorson, Addy Salmon and Madelyn Chaney could see playing time at that position. He said once again it goes back to this piece goes here and these pieces go everywhere else.
On the left side of the infield, Maupin will definitely be the every day shortstop when she is not pitching. While hitting a team-leading .440 last fall, Maupin also led the team in runs scored with 37, doubles with seven, triples with four, and home runs with four. She also stole 25 bases.
As for third, Dowell said Matney plays first Salmon will switch over to play third.
“I’m excited about the infield,”Dowell said. “We have two sophomores, a junior and a couple of seniors on the field. Really they are utility type players, we just throw them out there and they don’t miss much.”
The outfield could also be one of the best in the conference, with Benner returning in left, Madelyn Chaney in center and Dakota Clark in right. All three are returning from last year.
Offensively, Benner led the outfielders in hitting with a .387 clip with 24 hits in 62 at bats. She also finished second in triples with three and drove in 12 runs.
Dowell also mentioned Kaylen Sprick and Jayna Matthews as possibilities in right. He said it will all depend on who is hitting better when the team gets to that stage. “They are fight for the spot,”Dowell said.
Other players who could see playing time in the outfield are Natalie Wiseman, Madison Painter, Ella Oser and Katie Hunter.
8-29-Lead Off Classic
9-10-at Boonville, 5
9-12-NF Tournament, TBA
9-15-at Fayette, 5
9-21-at Community, 5
9-24-at Sturgeon, 5
9-30-at Harrisburg, 5
10-1-PILOT GROVE, 5
10-3-La Plata Tourn.
10-12-at La Plata, 5
Note: Home games in caps.