By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Aurora softball struggled in 2018, finishing with a 4-18 record.
While the Lady Houns showed promise at times, head coach James Hoffman felt the consistent play never materialized in big enough stretches.
“We struggled to be consistent offensively and defensively throughout the season,” Hoffman said. “We had several games throughout the year that we showed signs of being a really competitive team, but we couldn’t put a whole game together for the most part.”
Hoffman’s first order of business this season will be finding replacements for Aurora’s graduated starters — Jacelyn Brinley, Morgan Sanborn and Autumn Danforth.
A pair of Lady Houns are set to step into leadership roles for the team, including shortstop Kaysie Carr (.323 BA, .417 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 8 SB) and first-baseman Chloe Ryan (.233 BA, 8 RBI, 11 Runs).
“Kaysie has the ability to make big plays on the defensive side and is a competitor at the plate,” Hoffman said. “Chloe has the capability to put up big numbers offensively. She continues to get better defensively at first base.”
Bethany Rogers (.250 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI) and Nallely Martinez (.250 BA, 10 Runs) also return.
A trio of sophomores are also poised to make an impact this season, including Brooke Schutte, Mallory Schmidt and Brianne Martinez.
Aurora will unfortunately be without the services of one its best players due to injury.
“One of the biggest obstacles we will face is not having Elizabeth Martin patrolling the outfield or at the top of the lineup,” Hoffman said. “She covered a lot of ground and got to balls that most players couldn’t. She also led us in virtually every offensive category.”
Despite the challenges, Hoffman is pleased with his team’s chemistry and work ethic.
“They have great attitudes and get along very well,” Hoffman said. “Having a team that meshes well really makes for an enjoyable time for them to continue to build those relationships in a different setting.”
That team chemistry will be a key component as the roster continues to develop.
“We look for our kids to show up to practice with the intention of getting better than they were the day before,” Hoffman said. “If they buy into that mindset we have the potential to really surprise some people.”
In the circle, Aurora will go with a committee approach to start the season.
“Bethany Rogers and Nallely Martinez will more than likely be splitting time in the circle this year,” Hoffman said. “For us to be successful, they have to get ahead and throw a lot of strikes. We walked a lot of batters last year and we have to be able to limit free bases.”
At the plate, Hoffman believes the Lady Houns will be able to score runs in a variety of ways.
“We have the potential to put a lot of runners on the basepaths with different qualities,” Hoffman said. “We have some girls that can create offense with their speed, and others who have the potential to stretch the field with their power. It is going to take every single one of these girls to get behind each other for us to be successful.”
Aurora opens its season at home Aug. 30 against Hillcrest.