Marion returners will lead team

These seniors and returning letter-winners will anchor the Marion softball team this season: front row (from left), Reann Hamm, Bailey Robson, Shelby Felvus, Sam Davies, Sheridyn Arterburn; back row, Madison Stephen, Kayla Kroupa, Julia Hall, Shayla Kline, Elizabeth Meyer, Paige May. Janae Rempel / Free Press
These seniors and returning letter-winners will anchor the Marion softball team this season: front row (from left), Reann Hamm, Bailey Robson, Shelby Felvus, Sam Davies, Sheridyn Arterburn; back row, Madison Stephen, Kayla Kroupa, Julia Hall, Shayla Kline, Elizabeth Meyer, Paige May. Janae Rempel / Free Press

With the Marion softball team returning seven players with starting varsity experience, third-year coach Jennifer Felvus expects the Warriors to be competitive this year.

Last year, Marion ended the season with an 11-10 record. Five seniors have graduated from the program, but Felvus is confident this year?s players will fill the void.

?I feel there was a great core left here,? she said. ?I think there were players waiting in the wings last year for some of those positions.?

Having significant experience returning will be key for the Warriors this season.

?Experience is a huge part of the game, and it?ll be a great deal of help for us,? she said. ?It?s also great to have that kind of experience returning because we have a large incoming group of new players, and it gives them a better chance to learn more when there?s people around them who know what they?re doing.?

Pitching and catching

Perhaps the most challenging void to fill is the graduation of second-team all-league pitcher Megan Richmond, who pitched 801?3 innings with an earned-run average of 4.27 and 75 strikeouts.

Shelby Felvus returns for her sophomore season having pitched 341?3 innings last season with an ERA of 6.32 with 28 strikeouts.

?Shelby brings a lot, just from her travel-ball experience,? Coach Felvus said. ?She has a great deal of experience on the mound, which is going to help a lot, not only when she?s pitching, but in offering support to those other pitchers.

?It?s tough to be in the circle, no doubt, and it takes a special mindset to be there and do that job, so it?ll be good to have her around.?

Additional players expected to pitch this year are sophomores Emily Hague and Taylor May and possibly junior Bailey Robson.

Sophomore Paige May returns as catcher.

?Paige was a real surprise last year,? Coach Felvus said. ?She was an absolute sponge. She took in the information. She progressed quicker than really any catcher I think I?ve ever worked with to move from the level she did to starting on varsity.

?This year she?s extremely excited about her place on the field,. She and Shelby, who will lead our time on the mound, in this past year have formed quite the bond.?

Infield

When Shelby Felvus is not on the mound, she will anchor the defense at shortstop. She was a second-team, all-league infielder in 2014 who hit .439 over 17 games.

Junior Kayla Kroupa returns at first base, having batted .381 through 21 games; senior Shayla Kline, who also has experience at first, is expected to move to the middle infield. Kline batted .288 over 20 games.

Coach Felvus said of Kline, ?She previously was a first baseman for me, but we do have a strong first baseman in Kayla Kroupa. Shayla?s a very knowledgeable player of the game, so we?re looking to move her over to second.?

Coach Felvus said she has some younger players who may be asked to contribute in the middle infield, as well as senior Julia Hall, who is out for softball for the first time this year.

Junior Reann Hamm returns at third while senior Sam Davies is Marion?s returning utility player. Davies batted .368 in 21 games last season.

?(Sam) can catch,? Coach Felvus said. ?She can play third. She can go out in centerfield and keep everybody going, or I can bring her in to shortstop if I need to. ?

Outfield

Coach Felvus said prospects in the outfield are different than what she originally anticipated. She had expected Robson, who played center field last year and batted .283 in 20 games, to anchor the outfield.

But with Robson expected to put in time at shortstop when Shelby Felvus is on the mound, Davies will most likely be called upon to anchor the outfield.

Coach Felvus said she also expects contributions from senior Sheridyn Arter?burn, Taylor May and junior Elizabeth Meyer.

Meyer, an outfielder and designated player, may have an increased role this year. She batted .292 in 11 games last year.

?Liz pinch hit for us several times, very successfully,? Coach Felvus said. ?I expect you will see her as a more constant face in the lineup this season.?

League competition

Felvus said she expects Marion to be competitive in the Heart of America.

?I don?t think there?s anybody we won?t compete with, and I would hope we?ll find ourselves in one of the top two spots in the league,? she said. ?That?s where I would really like to end up and where I think we?re capable of ending up. Hopefully we?ll turn that skill and talent into wins.?