By Mark Jurgena
In the spring of 2019, the Triad softball team kept up their winning tradition with another 20-win season and their second straight Mississippi Valley Conference softball crown.
This season, the Knights were restructuring their team by moving players around various defensive spots and were making strides before the COVID-19 quarantine took hold.
“We were going to have to move some kids around into some different positions that maybe they hadn’t in the past. When you coach high school you have to fill your roster with what you currently have on your team. We’re going to have to ask some kids to try some different positions than what they are accustomed to. But in the weeks that we did practice they were very good at just experiencing new things and stepping in and saying, ‘yeah coach I’ll try that.’ We spent a lot of time on fundamentals. Every other day was outfield day or infield day. So Monday was everybody’s an infielder day and Tuesday was everybody’s an outfielder day.” said coach Kris Kleeman
The reshuffling of positions is due to the loss of three key players to graduation in Payton Bode, Liz Young, and Kailey Daniel. All three hit .380 or above and had an on-base percentage of over .430. They combined for 13 home runs and 81 RBI.
Young also went 20-5 on the mound with a 2.22 ERA in 2019.
Fortunately for Kleeman the cupboard isn’t bare.
The Knights return power in Isabelle Lehan and Shiane Taylor.
Lehan hit nine home runs and 28 RBI while Taylor returns a .412 average, a .794 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 17 RBI.
Dallas Zirkelbach, Ella Moore, Jenna Bohnenstiehl and Caroline Lehan all return with championship experience from last season.
“We have speed and power,” commented Kleeman. “I would say over half of our lineup is going to be extremely speedy. So we’re going to focus on stealing bases; they’re going to have green lights and taking an extra base if the opportunity presents itself. So hopefully we can make use of that speed once we get on base.”
In addition to their offensive punch, Kleeman is confident in her pitching staff this spring.
Ella Moore and Malorey Kessinger return to the mound for the Knights while freshman Layla Moore may also see time in the circle.
“All three of those (girls) pitch and pitch quite well I might add,” began Kleeman. “All of my pitchers I know they have worked very, very hard in the offseason. When I talked to them on Zoom yesterday (March 23), I asked what they were doing and both Layla and Ella were pitching in the basement of their house. I know Malorey has a shed that she pitches in and she’s been pitching also while we’ve been off. All of the pitchers work really, really hard and I’ve been impressed with their work ethic and how they just continue to want to get better.”
If and when the 2020 season begins the Knights will face MVC foes right away.
“Our conference is going to be really tough. Civic Memorial has gotten better and better, they are returning everyone from a team that finished third in the conference tied with Jerseyville, Jerseyville had an amazing year last year, a strong breakout year for them. Highland is always tough…our conference is just a very, very competitive collection of teams that on any given night anyone can beat anyone,” said Kleeman.