Softball team opens season with new look

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

A lot has changed since the end of the Eastern softball team’s 2016 season. Eastern brought in the winningest coach in program history Kim Schuette, lost five seniors last year and brought in seven new players for this season.

The Panthers will get their first look at their new team this weekend at the Rosemont Dome Tournament. Returning for the Panthers in 2017 is seniors Ashlynne Paul, Amber Toenyes and Kaitlyn Crossen, juniors Jessica Wireman, Michelle Rogers, Tori Johnson, Andrea Roberts, Taylor Monahan, Sophmores Jennifer Ames, Mady Poulter, Maria DeVito, Kayla Bear, Amber Matchett, and redshirt sophomore Taylor Miokovic.

New to the roster this year is freshman pitcher Katie Grunert, freshman pitcher McKenna Coffman, freshman infielder Ashley Bartlett, freshman pitcher Allison Golic, freshman outfielder Mia Davis and freshman catcher Haley Mitchell.

Infielder Kiley Pelker also joined the Eastern squad as a junior transfer.

Schuette’s final year at Eastern before returning was in 2013. Paul and Toenyes were both recruited by Schuette out of high school, but never got chance to play for her, so this weekend will be a first look for everyone.

“(We’re) to play someone else and put on the uniform for the first time and just see what happens,” Schuette said. “You always want gamers on your team to step up to the challenge and I’m excited to see if we can do that.”

Eastern will have to fill the holes of Kylie Bennett at first base, Katie Watson at shortstop, Jennette Isaac in left field, and Haylee Beck and April Markowski in center and right field.

Eastern will open the tournament against Detroit on Friday and will follow that up with a double header on Saturday against Miami of Ohio and IUPUI. The Panthers will wrap up the weekend with a game against Indiana Fort Wayne on Sunday.

Wireman and Rogers are coming into the season still as the top pitchers, but there still some women on the roster who can pitch as well.

“They’re probably our top two, but we have three freshman as well as Tori Johnson,” Schuette said. She said Johnson will help close out some games this season.

This will be the first of six tournaments that the Panthers play in before opening their season March 25 at home against Belmont and March 26 against Tennessee State.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]