Any questions the Class 4A No. 10-ranked Leo softball team had a month ago have been answered.
After graduating the state's all-time leading hitter, Alexa Allen, and four-year shortstop and slugger Abbie Heischman, coach Ben Shappell has been pleasantly surprised as the team started 4-0.
“We've hit really, really well,” he said. “I was surprised how well we hit, when we played Manchester in the first game and it was in the cold. We hit six home runs in the two games and scored 30 runs and to score 17 against Concordia. I've been happy with our hitting.
“Our pitching is good, our fielding hasn't really been tested, yet. I hope to see that as I hope to see those teams put balls in play and not have to rely so much on pitching.”
The team's roster is comprised of three seniors, four juniors and 10 underclassmen.
“It's a young team this year. I was a little worried about our young infield,” senior catcher Corey Uetrecht said. “(Like) Kennedy (Shade) at shortstop, they've all proved themselves. I think everyone meshes.”
The team has grown up playing together through travel teams starting almost a decade ago.
“I think we're already a family,” junior Ellenor Schelm said. “It's always been (a goal to play varsity for the high school). We've pretty much worked our whole travel team for this goal, for playing high school softball, playing for coach Shappell, (Tony) Bowers and (Joe) Mickelini and that's always been my goal. The way they coach is so awesome. They know when to be serious, they're fun, they know what they're talking about. They've led a team to a state championship (in 2014).”
Of the three seniors, Uetrecht is the only one who was on the 2015 team that finished as Class 3A state runner-up, the program's most recent trip to the championship game.
“I think pitching has been a big part of it,” Uetrecht said. “We also string hits together well. We don't leave a lot of kids on base, people come in well when they need to. They hit in spots that we need to get runners in.”
Pitchers Lindsey Nolt and Ashley Miller have combined for 35 strikeouts, nine walks, four runs, none earned, and five hits in 22 innings through the first four games.
“I try to use my speed to my advantage,” Miller said, “and try to work in change, too, so the batters are off-balance and I know (junior) Mackenzie (Rust) does that, too.”
The team's fielding should be tested this weekend as Leo will play host to Class 4A No. 14 Munster, 3A No. 3 South Bend St. Joseph and Kokomo.
“It should be four really competitive games and it will be good to really see where we stack up against some of the better teams in the state,” Shappell said. “Hopefully it will be good weather and hopefully we'll have a total of six really good games. The teams should be evenly matched.”