(ST. JOSEPH) Numbers rarely tell the whole story in sports, but after a memorable season for Bishop LeBlond softball, low numbers had some wondering if their story was to be continued.
The Lady Eagles won the Class 2 State Championship, the first softball title in the history of St. Joseph, with 12 players, four of which were seniors.
"There is just a gap in there where there is only one or two softball kids in the grades in the Catholic schools," head coach Wayne Miller said. "Our numbers have dwindled fromm 20 to 12 last year to 12 this year. It's really been a tough situation for us."
Immediately following the season, it looked uncertain that Miller would have enough to field a team, let alone defend LeBlond's title. The addition of freshman Maddie Gerhardt assured the Lady Eagles would have enough to compete, and some friendly convincing has put the roster at 12 again.
"We needed more girls to come out so we could field a team this year and we convinced some of our friends to do it," senior center fielder Audrey Glenski said. "We're just trying to focus on the little things and helping the new girls prepare with us and get them up to speed. I think they've been doing that perfectly."
The returners encouraged senior Ashley Prowitz and junior Melanie Mears to join the team, while fellow junior Lauren Schultz made up the final piece with her addition last Monday.
"It really has helped us and they've progressed," Miller said. "I wouldn't be afraid to put any of them on the field."
With limited bodies, they will have to see the field. Glenski returns as the sharpest hitter of a batting order that used timely hitting and plate discipline to win state last year. Now, Miller believes that his first seven hitters, at minimum, should have little problem duplicating that patience.
Senior ace Kennadi Barron also returns after keeping her ERA below 1.00 for much of last season. She is even more confident heading into this year, especially with pitcher/infielder Claire Doolan filling out the rotation behind her.
"I think there's a lot of pressure on us because everybody's like: 'Oh, they went to state last year," she said. "But, our main goal this year is to win our district, and if we go farther then that's great."
The Lady Eagles have room to grow after an 0-3 showing in last week's City Round Robin, but Miller said that just shows the target his team will sport for this entire campaign.
"These people want to get at us. They don't care if we're 1A, 2A, 3A, they want to beat us because we're the defending state champs," he said." We're a different team than the one last year, but we can become the same thing by the end of the year."
LeBlond opens the regular season on Tuesday hosting East Buchanan.