2019 PREVIEW: Grace’s bats to lead the Lady Lancers
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s softball team is ready to finally get its season underway.
After being forced to cancel their first two weekends of the season due to weather, Grace will jump into the year with 10 games over the next 11 days.
Grace will have a new look in the 2019 campaign as Sarah Harman takes over as head coach for her first season.
Harman was excited for the chance to lead the Lady Lancers from the dugout. She said one of her main focuses during the preseason was on Grace’s mindset.
“Culture is an everyday thing. We talk every day about the process and not the outcome,” Harman said. “When we put our daily trust and focus in the Lord’s plan, we will meet our goals.”
Last season, Grace excelled at the plate but struggled in other areas en route to a 16-35 record.
The Lady Lancers finished last year in the top half of the conference in the majority of offensive statistics. Grace ranked high in the league in team batting average (.315), hits per game (8.8) and runs per game (5.4).
Harman was confident that Grace’s bats would continue to stay hot in 2019. “Our offense has the potential to be very dominant and powerful in this conference,” she said. “We certainly will score some runs with the combination of speed and the ability to get on base. The returning power should be solid up and down the lineup.”
Sam Heim and Britney Young were All-League performers last year. Heim hit .391 and posted team-high marks of 63 hits, 39 runs and 28 stolen base. Young tied Heim with a .391 batting average and led Grace in slugging percentage (.523) and on-base percentage (.441).
Dori Knight and Emily Bobb each topped .300 from the plate last year, and Morgan Tapscott had 19 RBIs in 23 starts.
From the mound, Knight and Middlebrooks combined to pitch 206 innings during their freshman seasons. They’ll be joined by Erin Lawhon, who produced a 3.48 ERA in 2017.
Heim will also take to the mound for the first time as a starter this season. Harman commented that she wanted her four starters to throw for longer innings in 2019, leading to more complete games.
“All of our pitchers have embraced the mental approach I have asked them to take on, and I have seen huge strides in their confidence in the circle,” Harman said. “They will be fun to watch this spring.”
On the defensive end, Grace could see as many as five players earn time as the starting catcher. Seniors Emily Bobb and Michaela Lee bring experience, and Young, Andrea Castillo and freshman Jessica Kaurich all have potential to be vocal leaders behind the plate.
The corners of the infield “will be the anchors for our defense,” in Harman’s words. Young, Kaurich, Middlebrooks, Tapscott, Jess Vandenboom, Natalie Klingberg and Bethany Gardner could all see time at the corners — a group that includes good size, strength and overall quickness.
In the middle of the infield, Scarbrough, Bobb, Lee, Castillo and Hannah Harless give Harman a strong batch of competition to choose from; Scarbrough has been a regular at shortstop in her career, while Bobb has playing significant time as Grace’s second baseman.
Heim will man Grace’s outfield while not on the mound. She has the potential to start at multiple outfield positions due to her strong arm. “Her arm is so accurate and strong that we can move her to center or left field. She will be where we feel the majority of balls will be hit to,” Harman said.
Tapscott, Lawhon, Vandenboom, Taylor Asher and Kaitlyn Heffner make up an outfield unit that is quick, deep and smart. “Opponents will have a hard time finding a hole in the grass,” Harman added.
The Lady Lancers have another exciting facet to the 2019 season — a new stadium. The Coach Phil Dick Field was completed in the fall, allowing the Lady Lancers to showcase their hard work at the newly renovated complex. Grace’s first home series is Tuesday, March 19, against Marian.
Overall, the Lady Lancers are building a team filled with purpose and joy. While instilling her own culture is not a simple task, Harman was excited to see the progress that was made during the preseason.
“I truly love this team and believe there is something special here. We are learning to lean on God and each other,” Harman said. “As their coach, it’s my job to remind them of what they’re playing for and who they are. They know it’s for a higher purpose and that we’re building strong, confident women here at Grace.”