|2013 COVINGTON LADY BUCCS...
The Covington Lady Buccs enter the 2013 season with high expectations after only losing two seniors from a state final-four team.
When you reach the state final four two years in a row and return all but two players to the roster - and then ad a very talented freshman class - its easy to see why the expectations are very high for the Covington Lady Buccs softball team.
"The expectations are high," said Covington coach Dean Denlinger. "The girls know what it takes to get there and they know that it takes playing the game the right way."
With the expectations also comes the challenge of fending off teams who have their sights on knocking off this Lady Buccs squad.
"Teams know us, so we'll have to find that competitive edge," Denlinger explained. "Every season and every team is different, so we'll have to find our identity."
Covington suffered a huge loss a year ago with the graduation of Hannah Pond, who was the senior leader not only on the field, but in the dugout. Finding someone to emerge as the emotional leader will be critical to Covington's success.
"A big key for us will be our leadership," said Denlinger. "We have to find leadership in the dugout amongst the kids. That will determine how quickly we find our identity and the competitive edge we need for us to accomplish our goals."
Fortunately, Denlinger has six talented seniors to look too for leadership in Casey Yingst, Heidi Snipes, Jessie Shilt, Kyrtsyn Boyer, Brittanie Flora and Connor Schaffer.
"We have a nice sized senior class, more so than what we've had the past couple of years," Denlinger said. "They have a lot of experience and know what the expectation is."
Yingst, who recently committed to play collegiate ball at the University of Northwestern Ohio, returns as the ace hurler after putting together back-to-back monumental efforts in the state tournament as a sophomore and junior.
"It's good that Casey has the college commitment out of the way because she can focus on what she has to do," commented Denlinger. "She's definitely top of the hill, but we have three other girls who are good. We've never had four arms like we have this year."
And those arms who will be spelling Yingst are sophomore Morgan Arbogast, senior Heidi Snipes and freshman Brooke Gostomsky.
"The best thing about it is we have a great defense behind them," Denlinger continued. "We have kids who can run. We've got more speed than we've had since I've been here."
The entire infield returns from a year ago with Cassidy Cain, Heidi Snipes, Jessie Shilt, Morgan Arbogast and catcher Connor Schaffer and the only loss in the outfield was Hannah Pond.
But there may be some shuffling due to the talent that is on the roster as Heidi Cron returns for her sophomore year after suffering a broken foot a year ago. Plus, junior Haley Adams returns healthier, while sophomores Jessica Dammeyer and Alex Gast, along with junior Morgan McReynolds return after solid campaigns.
Then, to top it off, Covington is loaded with the freshman talent of Jessie Crowell, Arianna Richards, Brooke Gostomsky, Erin Olson and Nicole Zeitz - all varsity caliber players.
"We probably have more depth talent wise," said Denlinger. "We can probably throw three different defenses out there if we want to, which would have been a stretch for us to try last year."
Still, as talented as Covington is from top to bottom, the Cross County Conference schedule will be a bear.
"Newton, Miami East and Arcanum are always strong," said Denlinger of the CCC. "Bradford has the Patty girl back, so they'll be good. Tri-Village is another one. They knocked Newton off last year in the tournament and I think they have a lot back. Almost anybody can beat anybody in our league."
Outside of the CCC, Covington plays the best around as evident by the list of names on the schedule.
"Our non-league schedule is as tough as it gets, I think," Denlinger continued. "We open with a double-header with Versailles, then play Anna, Coldwater, New Bremen, a double-header at Centerville and then host Minster in a span of one week. Later we have Troy, Milton, Russia and a double-header against Celina. Our schedule prepares us."
Which is why there are high expectations in Covington.