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Central Hardin coach Jamie Goodman has reminded the Lady Bruins championships are not won on paper. Last season was the second time in the last three years the Lady Bruins were considered to be a 5th Region Tournament contender, only to get knocked out before the final.
Central Hardin lost to Green County in the region tournament semifinals last season and to Nelson County in the 2010 region semis.
With the Lady Bruins projected to win the region and with four of the region’s top 10 players in a preseason coaches’ poll, Goodman doesn’t want his team resting on its laurels.
Especially with Central Hardin not having proven anything – this season, at least.
“We’re not going to get too excited about the polls. We want to go out and play good on the field and let our play take care of the rest,” Goodman said. “Our ultimate goal is to playing good at the end of the year and to accomplish our goal – at the end of the year.”
What the Lady Bruins have proven, though, is they have a solid defense, a productive offense and two of the region’s premier pitchers.
Juniors April Pence and Jessica Nall were both among the area’s leaders last season in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
“We’re going to use them a lot like we did last year. One will start one day and one will start the next day and they’ll just rotate their starts,” Goodman said. “April is really good at hitting her spots and her changeup is good. Jessica has a little bit more velocity and a little bit more movement, so I think they complement each other very well.”
Sophomore Alex Griffith will see time in the circle, too, although she might be limited to junior varsity because of having Nall and Pence in front of her.
No matter who the pitcher is, freshman Mariah Bryant will be the catcher after taking over the position last season.
“Mariah’s got a lot of game,” Goodman said. “She’s got a great arm and she handles the pitchers very well.”
Sophomore Shelby Maggard and senior Brianna Skees are competing to start at first base. The Lady Bruins will have a new starter at the other corner infield spot with the graduation of All-Area selection Abbi Goedde. Taking Goedde’s spot at third base could be freshman Brooklyn Bryant, senior Jackie Holbert or eighth-grader Aubree Muse. Brooklyn Bryant was primarily a runner last season, Holbert is a preseason All-Region selection and Muse started at third base the previous two seasons at North Hardin.
There’s no indecision about the middle infield, where the Lady Bruins return senior Jordan Lasley at second base and sophomore Kelsey McGuffin at shortstop. Both players were 2012 All-Area Team selections and 2013 preseason All-Region selections. Lasley, who could be the leadoff hitter, is the Preseason Region Player of the Year.
“Those two are just two great players,” Goodman said. “Jordan’s stepped up as a leader and she’s got all the tools. … Kelsey has a cannon for an arm and makes the routine plays and hits with power. And with her times, she’s the fastest kid on the team.”
Senior Baylee Sullivan has moved from left field to center, while senior Brianna Blair shifts to left field. Pence or Nall will play right field when they’re not pitching.
The Lady Bruins have a host of capable reserves, including sophomore outfielder Samantha Bell, junior infielder Jordan Elmore, junior outfielder/catcher Amber Hiller, junior outfielder Becca Himebaugh, seventh-grade infielder/outfielder Meredith Jones, sophomore outfielder Kailey Martin and eighth-grade outfielder/infielder Amanda Shackelford.
“We have experience, but we also have a lot of youth trickling up the program. We have the biggest numbers that I’ve kept in a while,” Goodman said. “That’s good for the program, but finding them all playing time gets tough. But having that youth is really good.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org