Howell finished 18-9 in 2016, but their postseason was halted in the sectional round by eventual state champion Troy Buchanan.
This time around, the Vikings have expectations that clearly include moving past the sectional round and possibly into the Class 4 state tournament.
“This team wants to go further,” Francis Howell coach Jen Beckmann said. “There’s a hunger in them and we have had in a couple of our meetings talking about things, that they want to go far with this team.”
8 seniors return for the Vikings. 5 of them played key roles a season ago. Senior pitchers Whitney Boschert and catcher Olivia Hetzel will lead the lineup. Both players are three-year starters and expected to be major producers.
Senior Hailey Akhiro will lead the outfield playing the centerfield spot. Akhiro is an outstanding fielder and can make things happen at the plate as well. “Haley is a monster at tracking down balls,” Beckmann said.
Senior Marissa Guenther joins Akhiro in the outfield, playing in left field. Kia Williams is back and will split time between the outfield and first base. “Kia is coming back from a concussion she had last year but she is coming back from that,” Beckmann said. “She has a strong bat and that give us another great option for our lineup.”
Vocal leader, senior Lexi Wallner will work in at first and third base again this fall. “She’s one of our stronger leaders on the field,” Beckmann said. “Always talking, communicating and she does a good job of making sure our freshmen and sophomores learn the system.”
Providing steady bench support will be senior reserve Mariah Davis, junior Emily Eberwine, senior Emily Rooney, and junior Logan Goulet.
Sophomore right fielder/pitcher Kate Norton and utility player Dani Linsey are also expected to fill in as needed.
Boschert and Hetzel will form the main battery for the Vikings most games as the pair has helped Howell win a pair of district championships during their past three seasons together.
Freshmen Neely Edwards and Maura Pawelek, and junior Ally Wilson will join Boschert in the pitching rotation and should give the Vikings a boost in the circle. Norton is expected to contribute as a reliever.
“Whitney is going to be our ace-she was the GAC South Player Of The Year last year,” Beckmann said. “When she get’s in that circle, she puts blinders on and she is focused beyond anything else.”
Beckmann is looking forward to getting some early use out of the two freshman hurlers Edwards and Pawleck.
“I like having freshmen up on the varsity because it’s exciting to see the youth in their eyes,” Beckmann said. “It’s new to them and it’s good with having eight seniors to have a couple of freshmen to remind them why they play.”
Francis Howell opens their season on August 21 with a 6 p.m. road game at Hillsboro.