SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Panthers hoping experience can lead to success

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M&O co-ops enter season under different circumstances
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Several Oconto Falls softball team members work on hitting drills during an indoor practice on March 20. The Panthers have big aspirations heading into the spring season with an experienced core back. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

With experience on its side, the Oconto Falls High School softball team has high expectations heading into the season.

Oconto Falls, coached by Cory Albrecht, finished 10-13 last year, including a 9-9 mark in the rugged North Eastern Conference.

While the Panthers graduated a few seniors, the team will bring back plenty of experienced starters and all four all-conference selections from a year ago.

Leading the way onto the diamond is senior Emma Huberty, a first team pick last spring. She will serve as the team’s catcher, helping guide a strong Panthers pitching staff through games.

Huberty also hopes to keep the team positive as it continues to have to practice indoors because of lingering snow piles.

“Right now, we already know it’s going to be hard (to stay focused) with a lot of weeks indoors,” Huberty said. “So we just want to stay excited about it (the season) and keep reminding ourselves of our goals, so we know what we are working for.”

Junior Haley Bell (pitcher, outfield) is also coming off a first team selection, while seniors Katelyn Albrecht (pitcher, shortstop) and Joslyn Tolzman (pitcher) made the second and honorable mention teams, respectively.

Seniors Kaelyn Allen (outfield) and Sammy Shallow (second base) and junior Aly Fabry (infield) also return with starting experience.

“Our defense has been very solid the past few years and will be our cornerstone for success again this year,” coach Albrecht said. “Offensively we have to get better. (The) Team put in many hours this offseason to improve hitting. We are very confident that we will be better offensively which will make us a very dangerous team.”

The Panthers are scheduled to open the season on the road against Little Chute on Thursday. Oconto Falls first scheduled home game is April 2 against West De Pere, the team that ended the Panthers playoff run last year.

Marinette & Oconto Conference

In a weather-ruined season a year ago, Gillett/Suring co-op got in just nine games, going 5-4 overall.

The co-op, coached by Mike Umentum, returns to Marinette & Oconto Conference action this spring with an experienced roster and bigger expectations.

While it did lose one all-conference selection to graduation, it does return junior Sydney Young, a second team pick from a year ago. Young will serve as the team’s top pitcher.

Also returning starting experience for the co-op is senior Angel Griffin (outfield, infield), juniors Sophie Horsens (outfield) and Annie Kohls (infield) and sophomores Emily Umentum (catcher) and Paige Krueger (infield, outfield).

The team is slated to open the year on the road against Oneida Nation on April 1. Gillett/Suring’s first home game is scheduled for April 8 against Crivitz.

The Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas Academy co-op is in a different situation heading into the spring schedule.

While it had four all-conference selections last year, all four graduated, leaving the co-op with some big cleats to fill.

Lena/STAA, which is coached by Cynthia Powers, will be looking for multiple players, either upperclassmen or first-time varsity players, to step up and help the team compete in the M&O.

The co-op is supposed to open the season on April 1 hosting Crivitz at St. Thomas. The team’s first three scheduled games and five of the first six are home games.