JASPER — “It Takes All.”
From not just the players, but the coaches, the fans, parents and everyone for Jasper softball to accomplish its goals, and thus — the Wildcat’s two seniors, Hillary Springer and Madison Heim, chose that for this year’s motto.
“For one, I was really happy to see that the two seniors — number one priority was to leave a legacy of what (the) Jasper Softball Family is about,” Wildcats coach Matt Pryor said. “That we’re committed to each other, we’re here for each other, we have each others’ backs. Not once did they mention that, ‘We want to win X amount of games, we want to win state.’ That stuff will come, we feel like, if we have each other’s back on a day-to-day basis.”
It sure will be different this year with Springer and Heim as the two seniors this year after the Wildcats graduated six seniors off last year’s 16-10 team.
“Both those seniors are on the same page,” Pryor said. “So sometimes, when you get (a) larger group of seniors — different opinions might clash, or personalities might clash. Not that they did clash last year because they didn’t, but it’s nice to see how close the two seniors are this year.”
Pryor likes the leadership Heim has shown this year, and the Wildcats are looking to move her around for her senior season. Meanwhile, Springer recently signed to play softball at Eastern Illinois University, and Jasper is looking to find different pieces around her for the lineup this season.
He mentioned sophomore Carlee Rogers, who worked her way into the lineup after coming through big on junior varsity, while fellow sophomore Ella Erny will be counted on to get on base with her speed. Freshmen Brooke Kleiser and Ayla Elkins are others who can help the team play small ball and also are natural left-handed batters, too.
Springer shared big bat duties with the graduated Megan Matheis before this season, maybe with the latter taking the lead on that front. Juniors Kaylee Stinnett and Grace Kaeck will help supply the supporting cast, but now it’s on Springer to be the go-to in this lineup.
“I think she’s looking forward to it — she’s welcoming that challenge,” Pryor said of Springer on Tuesday. “With her level of play, with the level of travel ball that she plays and her commitment — again, she was in here last night when practice was over. Two hours later, she shows back up to do some more hitting — so she’s welcoming any sort of pressure that’s going to come her way.”
The Wildcats went with a different dynamic last year in the graduated Kylie Morton sharing pitching duties with now-junior Elise Lampert after many years of relying heavily on a single arm. Jasper expects to have Lampert back in the circle this spring, as she’s made strides and will have some help again this year.
“Elise (has) been working extremely hard all year-round,” he said. “She has upped her game, she’s better than where she left the program last year — so she’s looked really sharp with Romey Werner, our sophomore, who was our JV pitcher last year, has worked all-year round as well. So, she’s pitching really well, her speed is up, both their speeds are up — the locations are great. So, Romey is going to be able to take some of those minutes and give Elise some breaks.”
Jasper is set to open its season March 23 at Pike Central, with Pryor wanting his base runners to be aggressive and learn early from mistakes at the beginning of the season — not being hesitant on the bases, while looking to get swings in and not walks.
It might not be the only time the Wildcats see the Chargers this season, with both of these teams in Sectional 31 this year, along with county rival Southridge, plus some other rivals in Heritage Hills, Vincennes Lincoln and Washington.
“We have plenty of history with all of those teams,” Pryor said. “Heritage Hills is probably one of our biggest rivals and has always been one of our biggest rivals — so it’s nice to see Coach (Joe) Asbury in sectional again, it’s going to be competitive without a doubt. We’re excited to host, but with that doesn’t guarantee any sort of victory or anything like that.
“It’s just going to be super-competitive from every single game, every team that’s in it, every game that’s played is going to be competitive down to the championship,” he added.