EUREKA – With seven players back, including two pitchers, Eureka could be primed for a bounce back season on the diamond.
“Our attitudes have been good so far,” voiced head coach John Stromberger. “We have a solid group. We’re not really deep. We have some good athletes who know how to play the game. If we can get them to be more consistent, I think we’ll be better.”
The Hornets were 11-12 in 2019, as the campaign ended with a 6-2 defeat to regional host and Heart of Illinois Conference rival, Tremont. Among the graduates were first team league choice in third base Morgan Greene, who hit for a team-best .440 average. The good news is the remainder of the infield returns in junior Jayci Swords (catcher), senior Savannah Hack (first), sophomore Ashley Nohl (second) and sophomore Madisyn Hack (shortstop). Senior Shelby Stoner is back in right field.
With most of the infield intact, that should aid the defense provided the pitching can keep the ball out of the air.
“That’s the hope,” said Stromberger, who enters his 16th season with Eureka (246-206-1 record). “That’s where we want the ball to go. That’s where our experience is.”
Offensively, the Hornets scored 108 runs a season ago, an average of just under five per game.
“We do not have the big hitter. We’re going to be a contact team that can put pressure by hitting throughout the lineup,” Stromberger stated. “I do not think we’re going to steal a lot of bases. We’re not going to all of the sudden be a bunt-and-run team. I do not see us being a bomber team because we do not teach that. Our goal is to hit line drives. If we get 14 singles in a game, I’m happy with that.”
Junior Hannah Martin (6-7) and sophomore Delaney Phillips (5-5) will again be called on in the circle for Eureka, who allowed 132 runs in ’19.
“The pitchers are working really hard,” noted Stromberger. “I expect both of them to come into a game and feel like they have the experience to handle the hitters, handle the counts. Jayci has done a good job working with them.”
When Martin pitches, Phillips will be at first.
Meanwhile, Tremont went on to win the HOIC title. Stromberger projects the Turks as the team to beat again.
“Tremont is going to be really good,” said the Washington native, who added Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Heyworth being next in line. “There’s a lot of good teams in the conference. It’s all about pitching in fastball softball. That’s what it comes down to.”
All Illinois schools are now closed through April 7, which also means all extra-curricular activities are also shelved. The tentative remainder of the schedule appears below (all games start @ 4:30 p.m. unless indicated & all home contests @ the middle school):
April 8: versus Fieldcrest*
April 13: vs. Tri-Valley* @ Downs
April 14: vs. Olympia
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April 18: vs. Putnam County, (doubleheader), 10 a.m.
April 20: vs. Deer Creek-Mackinaw* @ Brock Park
April 22: @ GCMS*
April 24: vs. El Paso-Gridley* @ South Pointe Park
April 27: vs. Fisher*
April 29: vs. Tremont*
May 1: vs. Le Roy*
May 4: vs. Ridgeview/Lexington* @ Lexington's Keller Park
May 6: @ Lowpoint-Washburn/Roanoke-Benson
May 9: vs. Morton, (DH), 10 a.m.
May 11: vs. Central Catholic @ Bloomington’s McGraw Park
May 13: vs. Clinton
May 14: vs. Illinois Valley Central
May 15: HOIC Showcase @ Illinois Wesleyan University Field, Bloomington
May 18-23: Regional
Notes: The twinbill with Morton and Clinton are new on the schedule, while Spring Valley Hall is off. Le Roy (23) and Fisher (20) were the two league squads to reach 20 wins in ’19.
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