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Younger Howell Central squad ready to contend for district championship

Sophomore infielder Alyssa Haile and sophomore utility player Emily Chadwick will be key contributors for the Howell Central softball team in its quest to win back to back district championships. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

Standouts Claudia King, Lauren Harrison and Alyssa Kolkmeyer may have moved on to college, but Francis Howell Central sophomores Emily Chadwick and Alyssa Haile believe the 2019 season of Spartan softball can be every bit as good as the 2018 team that went 17-11, won the Class 4, District 6 championship, and made a Class 4 quarterfinal appearance a season ago.

“I think that is definitely our goal again this year,” Haile said. “We definitely would like to win another district title after winning the first one around here last year and that was since 2008. That’s definitely the goal this year.”

Howell Central has three key returners back this fall as Chadwick, Haile and senior Olivia Fong are set to form the nucleus of this group.

“They are going to be our main returners this season,” Howell Central coach Zack Sheets said. “Those are our big ones this year.”

Chadwick will be a utility player and fill in wherever needed on a daily basis. Haile will be playing a middle infield spot at short or second and Fong is set to see time on the infield again.

Behind the plate, Chadwick caught every game in 2018, but sophomores Skylar Webb and Riley Quinn are also expected to work and get time there.

“We have three (catchers) that are really solid varsity level catchers that we are still trying to figure out the puzzle there and we’ll see (what happens),” Sheets said.

Final spots on the infield will not be set until after the season starts.

“This is one of those kinds of odd years where we’re young collectively and every athletic and were gonna mixing and matching people whether playing the infield or the outfield,” Sheets said. “There’s not too many positions [that are] set in stone. ”

In the circle pitching, the Spartans are expecting big things out of sophomore Kennedy Jensen. Jensen was an eye-popping 18-2 last year on the JV team as a freshman.

“She will be the sophomore that’s up and coming, and we’re pumped about Kennedy and the work that she’s put in and we’ve forecasting this growth,” Sheets said. “It’s been pretty cool to see.”

In the outfield, sophomore Josie Bezzoli will be back as a stabilizing factor there.

Hitting will be solid for the Spartans as well as Fong [.415], Chadwick [.364], and Haile [.347] will lead a lineup that should be able to put runs on the board each game.

“We have a lot of people who can swing the bat and unlike last year where we had only two or three people who could hit home runs, almost everyone in the lineup this year is capable of hitting the long ball,” Haile said.


Chadwick also believes the team has come together well in preseason and is ready for the season opener later this week.

“I think we have been getting along very well [so far],” Chadwick said.

Haile agreed.

“We don’t have the jealousy and fighting that some teams have and work hard together and get along with each other,” Haile said.

Sheets said although the team is young, he believes the players’ solid defense, pitching and hitting presents a solid chance at postseason success again this fall.

“The game doesn’t know age,” Sheets said. “The standard and the expectations haven’t changed and obviously we’re going to try to repeat in the district but at this point, it’s one game at a time.”

Howell Central opens the season on Friday at 4 p.m. in the Troy Buchanan Tournament with a first-round game against Winfield.

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