The Explorers come into the 2017 season with a solid senior class.
Nine seniors in all will make up the roster, including Liam Maher, who batted .440 last season.
“I think we have a real strong senior class with some good leadership, and mix it in with some really talented sophomores and juniors, and I expect good things from us,” Marquette coach Tim Fahnestock said. “This is a tough year because we are still playing our 3A schedule from last year, but we actually get to drop to 2A come regional time, so our record might not indicate how good we are toward the end of the season, but I am hoping with the tougher schedule we will be more prepared for postseason play.”
In addition to the nine seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores will get some playing time.
“We’ve got a good mix,” Fahnestock said. “Brady McAfee has a deal going to play ball in Quincy. Mike Neel on the mound, and Zach Weinman at shortstop has been very solid with the glove the last three years.”
The Explorers were scheduled to play O’Fallon on Wednesday at home.
After winning 3 regionals, 3 sectionals and having been to the super sectionals 3 times in the last 3 years, winning one game in the process and ending up in third place in the state last year in 1A, the Explorers got bumped up a class to 2A this year.
Head coach Steve Mitchell said while the team feels it was robbed a bit with the move up in class, it’s also going to be a welcome challenge.
“The outlook is a lot better than I thought, after the news of getting bumped up, but it’s just another bump in the road, another challenge,” the Marquette coach said. “We’re looking forward to it, actually. It’s pretty much the same, when you get down to the sectional and the super-sectional, if we make it that far.”
Mitchell will be leading a core that includes seven returning seniors, led by Annabelle Copeland and Ketoura Ngwa. Copeland is the leading scorer from last year and has committed to play for Saint Louis University after she graduates.
Ngwa is just getting back from a severe leg injury following a car accident, so it may be a couple weeks before she is back in full form. She has committed to play with Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland next season.
Coach Dan Weidman has only one returning senior this year in Emma Taylor, but that doesn’t have him worried about his team’s prospects for this year.
“We have a lot more players this year who have come out for softball,” Weidman said. “We haven’t had that in a number of years, so it’s good to have going into the season.”
Last year, Marquette finished its season 5-19.
Among the players competing for starting spots are juniors Tess Eberlin, Grace Frost, Kaitlyin Fitzgerald and Cayli Shinstock.
Coming back after a year off is pitcher Meghan Schorman, who put up impressive numbers on the mound in 2015 but decided not to play last year.
Coach Mike Walters will try to make the most of an experienced squad this season. Jonathan Claywell, Peter Wendle and Alex Cousley lead a pack of 10 returning seniors from last year.
Claywell, who was the 2016 AdVantage News Boys’ Tennis Player of the Year, will look to make it back to the state tournament in his senior season. He finished last year with an overall record of 11-7, dropping his last two games at the state tournament.
The Explorers are scheduled to kick off the season against Roxana at Lewis and Clark Community College on Monday, March 27.
Marquette graduated only three seniors from last year’s team, so this year’s squad should be well-prepared to face the challenges of the 2017 season.
Highlighting the field are senior Xavior Jones and junior Tommy DeClue, who was one of the top performers in the high jump last season.
The Explorers lost Natalie Halliday, who was their top performer last season, to graduation. But coming onto the scene is freshman Riley Vickrey, who placed fourth in the 1600 and third in the 3200 at the Jersey Winter Thaw at Principia College on March 11.