With seasons changing, if at least just on the calendar, Sidney’s softball team is gearing up for a new season, complete with a young roster and newly appointed head coach.
“We are a very young team with very little varsity experience. However, we have some good athletes that should fit into some spots and help our team,” head coach Damon McLaughlin said of the Lady Eagles.
Last season, the Sidney team graduated some talented players in Colleen Crosby, Abby Balcer, Tori Getchell, Abigail Haraldson, Morgan Thiel and Ashley Bjork. Senior leaders on last year’s squad included: Thiel led the team with a .463 batting average; Bjork had the highest slugging percentage at .684; Balcer led Sidney with two home runs and eight doubles; and Getchell had 19 RBIs.
Thiel was named to the All-State team in the Eastern A as first time utility. Honorable mentions for last year’s seniors included Getchell in the outfield and Balcer at catcher. Bjork was named second team All-Conference on third base.
Despite missing a talented core of seniors, the Eagles have a pool of talent returning to the field including Holly Papineau, a junior, who led the team with a .500 on-base percentage. She was an honorable mention on first base in All-State selections last season. Behind Thiel, she had a .429 batting average to lead Sidney last season.
Mikayla Verhasselt brings back varsity playing time as a sophomore. She led the Eagles with two triples, and as a freshman, she had 12 runs and 10 RBIs.
One of the most frustrating things so far in the preseason, however, remains to be the inclement weather that stalls outside practices.
“At this time, we have nobody in set positions as we have been working very hard at getting fundamentals down,” McLaughlin said. “The season is so short, getting prepared is a challenge.”
McLaughlin and the Eagles have been sticking it out thus far in the early going.
“Practices so far have been held outside. It has been really cold at times, but the girls have done a good job focusing on what we need to get done,” McLaughlin said.
With a majority of the members of this year’s varsity squad being a bit green and winter weather putting a damper on the early season, McLaughlin is confident minor setbacks won’t stop the girls from competing at a high level.
“With all this said, my expectations for the team is to compete every game and work hard every day at getting better.”
The Eagles play amongst tough, competitive teams in the Eastern A with the likes of Glendive, Miles City, Hardin, Billings Central and Laurel.
“I am sure our conference will be tough, and we will have to play well to get past anyone,” McLaughlin said. “Laurel and Billings Central are always powerhouses, and I would think this year would be no different. Miles City, Hardin and Glendive have excellent programs as well, and I expect them to be tough competition.”
The Eagles closed out last season with a 5-5 conference and a 10-8 overall record.