Photo by Diane Cox
Pictured is the 2016 Marquette softball team. Members of the team are: Sam Harshbarger, Miranda Schroeder, Emma Taylor, Tess Eberlin, Katelyn Fitzgerald, Grace Frost, Johnna Harshbarger, Melissa Lurkins, Cayli Shinstock, Haley Ferguson, Mera Parker, Bridget Powers, Sadie Seifert, Joey Taykowski, Ashley Wickenhauser and Katie Williams. Also pictured are head coach Dan Wiedman and assistant coaches Mary Rivera, Rachel Kallal and Rob Frost.
Things are little different than usual for the Marquette Catholic Explorers softball squad this season.
Normally ripe with experience, the Explorers look a little green in 2016.
After reaching the Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional final and losing 5-2 to Highland, Marquette closed its '15 campaign with a respectable 22-14 mark.
The Explorers lost a small, but talented senior class with the graduation of Megan Wittich, Kalie Buecker, Megan McClard and Carly Schaber. Then sensational freshman hurler Meghan Schorman added to the losses when she decided not to return to the program.
Schorman hit .393 with 6 homers and 31 RBIs last season, all team highs and then went 18-12 in the circle with a 1.72 ERA and 303 strikeouts in 183.2 innings pitched.
It leaves head coach Dan Wiedman with a lot of youth and inexperience in his 22nd season at the helm. He's 456-236 during his tenure and fresh off an induction into the Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“Our numbers were at an all-time low when we started the season. We were down to 11 players, but we picked up five girls basically out of class that have not played ball before,” Wiedman said. “As far as experience, it's probably the most inexperienced team I've ever had.”
There are five girls back that have either started at the high school level, or played select ball, but the other 11 have far less experience.
Junior shortstop Emma Taylor returns after being first-team All-Prairie State Conference last year. Taylor hit .343 a year ago, the highest returning batting average for the Explorers.
Sophomore Tess Eberlin will slide into the ace pitcher role, replacing Schorman. Eberlin went 1-0 in 2.2 innings of relief work in '15. At the plate, she hit a respectable .316 with a homer and 17 RBIs.
Sophomore catcher Grace Frost will be a key cog. Frost carried a .327 average with 2 homers and 24 RBIs last season.
Seniors Miranda Schroeder (.277, 18 RBIs) and Sam Harshbarger (.290, 11 RBIs) round out the other returning experienced players. Schroeder will play third base, while Harshbarger is slated for second.
“Those five girls really have to lead us this year,” Wiedman said.
As far as pitching, Marquette won't be very deep this season.
“Pitching wise we're down to one pitcher with any experience, Tess Eberlin,” Wiedman said. “We have (Cayli Shinstock) that pitched a little bit of JV ball last year that we're working with who will be our second pitcher.”
Wiedman looks forward to the challenge of rounding the Explorers into shape. He and his assistant coaches — Mary Rivera, Rachel Kallal, Jeff Gaines and Rob Frost — are doing their best to teach the idiosyncrasies of the game.
“It's a challenge and an opportunity,” Wiedman said. “I think we're hoping to keep improving every day and hopefully by the end of the year we'll be pretty competitive. I've got four good coaches to help me this year. With 16 players and four good coaches, that allows us to break up into small groups and get a lot of individual work done.”
Marquette is dialing back its schedule a bit with the lack of experience, especially at pitching.
“We've always played a very competitive schedule and we're still trying to play the competitive schedule, but we can't play the tournaments like we did the past couple of years where we're playing two or three games in a day,” Wiedman said. “We just can't do that with one pitcher and another girl who is just learning how to pitch.”
The Explorers still hope to be competitive in the PSC with the likes of East Alton-Wood River, Metro East Lutheran, Mount Olive, Bunker Hill and Nokomis.
Marquette was scheduled to open the season on Wednesday at Granite City. Its home opener is set for 10 a.m. Saturday vs. Gillespie.
Sam Harshbarger 2B
Miranda Schroeder 3B, 1B
Emma Taylor SS, C
Tess Eberlin P, 1B
Katelyn Fitzgerald OF
Grace Frost C, SS
Johnna Harshbarger IF, OF
Melissa Lurkins OF
Cayli Shinstock 1B, P
Haley Ferguson OF
Mera Parker OF
Bridget Powers OF
Sadie Seifert OF
Joey Taykowski OF
Ashley Wickenhauser OF, IF
Katie Williams OF
March 19 — vs. Gillespie, 10 a.m.
March 21 — at Roxana, 4:30 p.m.
March 23 — at Brussels, 4:30 p.m.
March 29 — vs. Althoff, 4:30 p.m.
March 30 — at Columbia, 4:30 p.m.
April 2 — vs. Calhoun, 11 a.m.
April 6 — vs. Okwaville, 4:30 p.m.
April 9 — at Hillsboro, 10 a.m.
April 11 — vs. Mount Olive*, 4:30 p.m.
April 12 — vs. Gibault, 4:30 p.m.
April 14 — vs. Greenville, 4:30 p.m.
April 18 — vs. Litchfield, 4:30 p.m.
April 19 — at Bunker Hill*, 4:30 p.m.
April 22 — vs. Carbondale (at Mascoutah), TBA
April 25 — at EA-WR*, 4:30 p.m.
April 27 — vs. Nokomis*, 4:30 p.m.
April 29 — vs. Peoria Notre Dame, 5 p.m.
April 30 — at Edwardsville Tournament, 10 a.m.
May 2 — vs. Metro East Lutheran*, 4:30 p.m.
May 4 — vs. Roxana, 4:30 p.m.
May 9 — vs. Carrollton, 4:30 p.m.
May 11 — vs. Belleville East, 4:30 p.m.
May 14 — vs. Gibault, noon
May 14 — vs. Mater Dei, 2 p.m.
May 17 — at Freeburg, 4:30 p.m.
May 18 — vs. Collinsville, 4:30 p.m.
May 21 — vs. Edwardsville, 10 a.m.