|2017 COVINGTON LADY BUCCS...
It's a new era of Covington softball, but the expectations remain as high as ever under new coach Mechelle Heitkamp.
COVINGTON - It's a new era for Covington softball as Mechelle Heitkamp takes over for Dean Denlinger, who had an amazing nine-year run at Covington where he compiled a 215-44 record in leading the Lady Buccs to eight straight 20-win seasons and the state final four in three of those years (2011, 2012 and 2013).
Also gone are two of the most talented softball players to come through Covington in Dendinger's tenure as ace pitcher Brooke Gostomsky and catcher Arianna Richards are now playing softball at Defiance.
But Denlinger, who is now the head baseball coach at Miami East, left the cupboard full with varsity a roster consisting of ten players fielding a combined 23 years of varsity experience and four freshmen who are capable of stepping in at a moment's notice.
Leading the way is a very talented and experienced senior class, which has 73 career wins under their belts. The seniors - consisting of Ashley Cecil, Lexie Long, Addison Metz, Kara Schaffer and Justice Warner - all have not only lettered, but contributed greatly in each of their first three years at the high school level.
"We look to have a strong season as the core of the team returns with a very solid senior class to lead the way," Heitkamp said. "Obviously filling the shoes of Gostomsky and Richards will be a challenge, but the girls are working hard."
Long is Covington's "big bat" as she hits with great power and has speed on the base paths. She is also one of the premier infielders in the area as a third baseman, but will also be in the pitching rotation for the Lady Buccs.
Warner and Cecil both cover a lot of ground in the outfield and are dependable hitters at the plate. Both have the ability to not only hit with power, but find ways to get on base through the small game.
Kara Schaffer is much like Warner and Cecil with her adaptability to the plate and also the lock-down second baseman for the Lady Buccs and an infield leader, while Addison Metz returns with the ability to play catcher or in the outfield.
Junior Sarah Hubbard, Emma Dammeyer and Taylor Ray also return to the lineup, while sophomores Makenna Gostomsky and Chelsea Ford look for more responsibilities after excelling as pinch runners a year ago.
The four freshmen looking to contribute are Kirsti Barnes, Layklyn Kemp, Mackenzie Long and Morgan Studebaker.
"My hope is that we are in the running to win the league," said Heitkamp. "However the post season is always where we strive to be playing at the top of our game."
With 10 of the 14 girls on the team returning with varsity experience, expectations remain very high for Covington in 2017. The key for the Lady Buccs will be how quickly they mesh together as a unit and establish an identity.