Sterlington’s softball future has arrived, and coach Jennifer Hickman couldn’t be happier.
“Freshmen are going to make a big, big impact on this team,” Hickman predicted. “Really and truly, all my freshmen are shining right now.”
Following consecutive trips to the state tournament, the Lady Panthers finished 22-12 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season. The dropoff was predictable. Besides losing seven starters from 2018, All-State shortstop KB Briley was limited to nine games due a back injury.
Briley, a Louisiana Tech commit, recently rejoined her travel team.
“KB still has a little pain, but as long as she doesn’t overdo it, she should be ready,” Hickman said.
Just how many remains to be seen, but Briley will be surrounded by freshmen.
“You could call it a competition between the new girls and the older girls attitude-wise and work ethic-wise,” Hickman said. “The freshmen are winning right now. I have some hustlers — girls that love to play the game.”
Pushed by the freshmen, Hickman says the veterans are playing with more intensity.
“The older girls have responded to the freshmen,” Hickman said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Sterlington lost five starters total. District 2-3A MVP Kaela Mullins and Jayla Stewart graduated and three more starters opted not to return. Besides Briley, the holdovers include three pitchers who play multiple positions, infielder Brooke Wood and outfielders Rachel Wisecarver and Chesnie Daigle.
A freshman will start behind the plate, though which one isn’t clear. Hope Tucker and Emma Brown are likely to crash the starting lineup somewhere. Tucker can also play center field while Brown is a capable middle infielder. Both are in the running for starting spots on the basketball team as well.
Other freshmen making a push for playing time are second basemanSkylar Cannon, corner infielder Mallory Stevens, outfielder Braylee Cooper and the versatile Hannah Claire Stewart.
“I think the only position Hannah Claire hasn’t played this summer is first base,” Hickman said.
Among the holdovers, pitcher Katie Haynes and Daigle have caught Hickman’s attention during summer league play.
“Out of the older girls, I have been very impressed with Katie Haynes and Chesnie Daigle,” Hickman said. “Those two have been here almost every day, and have been pushing themselves to the extreme.”
Haynes, Emery Adams and Madigan Stevens are projected to share the pitching load once again.
“We’ve been playing three times a week, trying to get those three better in the circle,” Hickman said. “Having a better defense behind them will make them better pitchers.”