By Chris Parker
Aurora softball enters an expanded Big 8 conference with designs set on a strong season after winning seven games a year ago.
All-conference honorable mention selection Chloe Ryan returns at first base for the Lady Houn’ Dawgs.
“Chloe had a great sophomore season and has looked really good in our workouts so far this season. She has a really strong work ethic and is getting around the bases with much improved speed. We expect her to continue to get better and step into a leadership role as the season begins,” head coach James Hoffman said. “(She) is in a completely different place physically than she was last year when we started our camp. She is moving much better around the field and has shown improved leadership.”
Junior Kacie Carr returns for her third season as a starting shortstop.
“(Carr) is probably the most overlooked player in the conference,” Hoffman said. “She continues to impress with her range and arm strength. She is definitely an exciting player to watch play defense.”
Jesse Conran logged the most innings at catcher last year and should see time there again this year. Elizabeth Martin will return to centerfield after starting as a freshman. Autumn Danforth is slated to start at second base. Jacelyn Brinley, Morgan Sanborn and Kenzie Darst will join Danforth as senior leaders of this year’s team.
Aurora will potentially use several pitchers this season, but sophomore Bethany Rogers returns with the most innings at the position.
The Big 8 split into two divisions this year, but softball will play every team, which offers challenges of its own.
“I would say the biggest challenge for the new Big 8 for everyone is going to be the amount of travel. I don’t think any other sport in the Big 8 plays the entire conference. The other sports were divided into East and West, and softball plays every school in the conference that has fall softball,” Hoffman said. “Fortunately for us we are somewhat centrally located. For the most part the we already had the new teams on our schedule. The only new team on our schedule will be Logan-Rogersville.”
Aurora opens the season on Aug. 24 at Hillcrest.