First Posted: 9:06 am - March 29th, 2016
By Pete Hayes
ALTON – Sometimes the high-school sports numbers game can be tough, even on a Hall-of-Fame coach.
Just ask Marquette’s venerable softball coach Dan Wiedman. No fewer than 13 of the Explorers’ 16 rostered players are either freshmen or sophomores. In fact, only five players have started at the high-school level or have played select softball.
“We’re very young and inexperienced,” said Wiedman, who’s in his 22nd season as the Marquette softball coach and was inducted into the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame last month. “The players and coaches have been working hard to improve each day.”
That included using multiple lineup variations though the early games of the campaign.
The five experienced players returning for Marquette include Sam Harshbarger, Miranda Schroeder, Emma Taylor, Tess Eberlin and Grace Frost.
“The main focus right now is to develop some of the inexperienced players so that they can mesh with our experienced players,” Wiedman said. “The experienced players will need to carry the load early and provide crucial leadership and support to the younger girls until the younger girls can get their feet on the ground.
Tess Eberlin returns as the only experience pitcher.
“(Eberlin) and has worked hard and she’s done a good job of taking over the pitching chores and has improved a lot since the beginning of the season,” Wiedman said. “With (sophomore) Grace Frost catching again, we have a very good and young battery.
Taylor, a junior, starts at shortstop for a second consecutive season. She was an All-Prairie State Conference selection last season. Schroeder is starting at third base.
Harshbarger, who normally plays second base, has gone to centerfield to help with the younger outfielders.
Catcher Grace Frost, a sophomore, had 24 RBIs and batted .327 last season.
While Wiedman and the Explorers lost four seniors to graduation, the biggest loss may have been from a freshman who did not return.
Meghan Schorman, who set the area on fire as a freshman pitcher in 2015, elected not to return this season.
In 2015, Schorman was 18-12 in the circle, with 25 complete games, 303 strikeouts and five no-hitters. At the plate, she batted .393, with six home runs, three triples, two doubles and 31 RBIs.
But Wiedman is looking ahead instead of back. He said a group of younger players has come together and contributed in the early going, including sophomore Katelyn Fitzgerald ,a starter in the outfield; Johnna Harshbarger (So) – starter in OF and 1B ; sophomore Missy Lurkins , an outfield starter; (So); sophomore Cayli Shinstock a starter at first base; freshman Mera Parker, a starter in the outfield, as well as freshman Bridget Powers, Ashley Wickenhauser and Katie Williams.
“This season is going to be a challenge,” Wiedman said. “I think we’re hoping to keep improving every day and hopefully by the end of the year we can be competitive.”