The Marion softball team returns six starters from last year’s 12-9 squad. Sixth-year coach Jennifer Felvus said the Warriors bring knowledge of the game to the field this season.
“I think they come in with a lot of skills,” Felvus said. “I have reached the point where most of these girls have attended some of my clinics. Most of these girls I’ve worked with through the rec department, helping with other teams, and they came in with a lot of knowledge.”
Marion went 10-6 in Heart of America play a year ago, including sweeps of Moundridge, Ell-Saline, Bennington and Inman. The Warriors concluded their season with a loss to Lyons in a Class 3A regional quarterfinal game.
Despite sustaining some major losses with the graduation of seven seniors, the Warriors’ 20-person roster is not without experience.
“Overall, we actually have a lot of experience coming in because these girls have been excited about softball for several years,” Felvus said. “So it’s not like a fresh start.”
A majority of Marion’s infield remains the same. The Warriors return seniors Lindsey Sigel at first base, Bailey Baker at second base and Kourtney Hansen at shortstop.
Hansen batted second a year ago, recording a team-high batting average of .515 (34-for-66), including one triple. She drove in 17 runs. Hansen is the only returner who batted in the top four of the lineup last year.
Sigel batted .348 (23-for-66), including seven doubles. She had 24 RBIs, while Baker batted .326 (15-for-46), with four doubles and nine RBIs.
The Warriors will need to replace Taylor May at third base. She batted .307 last year (23-for-75), including three doubles and four triples. She drove in a team-high 25 runs.
Options at third base include freshmen Laura Savage and Macy Sigel.
“I have quite a few girls who could really fill that role, so at this point it’s kind of up in the air,” Felvus said. “We’re trying to see who we need in some other places first to see who really will end up filling that role.”
Junior Corrina Crabb returns to anchor the outfield. She is expected to move to centerfield this season, replacing Taelyn Pagel, who has graduated. Crabb batted .364 a year ago (20-for-55) and drove in 23 runs.
Senior Alli Molleker saw action in three games last year. Felvus said she expects her to play a larger role this year.
“Alli is a great right fielder,” she said. “She’s very attentive. She’s got a good arm. She is not as experienced. She came out for softball kind of late in her high school career, but we’re excited to have her again.”
Marion will also need to replace outfielder Katelyn Christensen, but Felvus isn’t worried.
“We are really deep this year as far as options go in our freshman, sophomore and junior classes,” she said.
Marion sustained a substantial loss on the mound with the graduation of Shelby Felvus, who threw 102.1 innings a year ago. Felvus was 12-7 with an ERA of 4.58. She struck out 86 batters.
Emily Hague, who pitched 8.1 innings and went 0-2, has also graduated, leaving Marion with minimal returning varsity experience on the mound.
Sophomore Grace Overton is the only Warrior returning with experience, having thrown 5.2 innings last year with an ERA of 6.18.
Three freshmen are included in the mix: Savage, Chisholm Waner and Megan Neufeld.
“We’re trying to create more depth to allow us more options, and a lot of that is young,” Coach Felvus said. “Our battery is very, very young. We have three freshman pitchers and a sophomore pitcher, so it’s young, but I think it’s solid, and that is a good thing for this program in years to come.”
Marion will need to replace catcher and cleanup hitter Paige May. She batted .311 a year ago (19-for-61), including two doubles, two triples and the Warriors’ only home run. She drove in 18 runs.
Three Warriors are vying for time behind the plate, including junior Tori Shults and freshmen Jaden Slifer and Macy Sigel. Shults saw action in three games last year. She can play in the outfield, too, Coach Felvus said.
“Shelby and Paige really anchored our battery for us,” she said. “The exciting thing is that two of the three catchers are freshmen as well, so this staff has an opportunity to really grow together and be something special for several years to come.”
Marion likely will feel the void of the graduated seniors most at the plate, Coach Felvus said.
“Not only were Paige, Taylor and Shelby strong hitters, so were Katelyn (and) Taelyn, so our hitting was pretty solid—but I am excited,” she said. “I’ve got two slappers in Kourtney and Corrina still coming back and Lindsey still carries a big bat. A lot of the younger kids are great hitters as well.”
Felvus said the Warriors are focusing not only on hitting, but also base-running as they prepare for the season.
The Warriors’ motto for the year is, “It’s time.” Coach Felvus added that she is spending time developing team culture.
“We spend a lot of time working on celebrating each other and building that mindset that success is not a limited commodity,” she said. “We can all have (success), and the team is better the more of us that have it. It’s time to be a selfless team.”
Her reason for focusing on team culture is that it’s something that is lacking in the sports world in general, Felvus said.
“That change starts somewhere, and why can’t it start with 20 girls in Marion, Kansas?” she said. “I feel like it’s time for that focus to be at the top. I’ve always tried to develop a strong culture among my teams, but I have clearly made that a lead focus. I think it will pay off its dividends in our competition as well.”
Marion was scheduled to open the season by hosting Council Grove March 27. The Warriors will host Inman March 30 to start league play.