The Geneseo varsity softball team is in a much better position than they were last year to start the season. This year, the Lady Leafs return most of their key players, compared to last year when Geneseo was battling inexperience.

The Geneseo varsity softball team is in a much better position than they were last year to start the season. This year, the Lady Leafs return most of their key players, compared to last year when Geneseo was battling inexperience.

“I think we have a lot of experienced players back,” said head coach Bob Pettit. “I am very excited about the returning players and what we are looking like. We are doing extremely well for indoor practice.

“We are returning the vast majority of our key players this year, who received excellent experience last year. We went into last year not knowing who would fill spots, and this year there is not that question mark.”

With this experienced squad, Pettit expects his girls to win a lot of games this season.

“One thing for sure, we are going to compete in every game, and I don’t think there is a game we can’t compete in. There are going to be close ones, but hopefully the scales will tip in our favor. Experience is the advantage we need.”

The seniors leading the way for the Lady Leafs this season are: Darian Gillette, Natalia Mangieri, Taylor Price, Jena Reddig and Sierra Ricketts.

“I expect a lot of leadership out of the seniors,” said Pettit. “Last year was tough to ask those seniors to be leaders when they weren’t on the field, but we have a lot of seniors on the field and in the dugout to show that leadership this year.”

The juniors adding their experience to the mix are: Daryn Brants, Kelsey Etter, Hannah Kain, Carley Rusk, Angie Schaumburg and Jennifer Yager.

“Hannah Kain is absolutely crucial to our team at catcher. She plays like a senior and has great leadership skills,” said Pettit. “Carley Rusk is going to be a great improvement.”

Also joining the squad are: sophomores Olivia Carroll, Taylor Riffe, Maddy Shoemaker, Rachael Varland, Andrea Wagoner and McKinsey Walters, and freshmen Maddie Mackey and Jasmine McCormick.

“We are putting six sophomores on the roster and three of them have a lot of experience with us from last year. I expect those three to have a major impact and expect the others to come along,” said Pettit. “Maddie and Jasmine impressed me with the skills they brought in. I don’t expect an immediate impact, but they have potential to grow into a spot quickly.”

The Lady Leafs have their sights set high this season as the girls have goals of winning a conference championship, regional championship, sectional title, and to get to state.

“These are very attainable goals, but it doesn’t mean the season is a flop if we don’t meet them,” said Pettit. “This can be a very good team.”

The big strength of this team will be its experience.

“So many of these girls have learned how to compete. They have to desire to compete and that will be contagious,” said Pettit.

A challenge for the Lady Leafs will be having underclassmen in the starting lineup.

“We were so young last year,” said Pettit. “Some of the juniors and sophomores will have to step up and play like seniors to really achieve what we are capable of.”

As far as the outlook of the conference, like in the last few years, it will be a tight race in the NIB 12.

“We use to have to worry about one or two teams now it is everybody,” said Pettit. “It should be a dog fight.

“The girls are going to have to find a reason to compete for their teammates,” said Pettit of their keys to success. “We have to get to the point where they will just not let their teammates down. As soon as we get that feeling they are competing on every pitch that will be a good team. We have to strive for that.”

Geneseo vs. Alleman

It was a tough start to the season for the Lady Leafs March 18 as the girls dropped their season opener to Alleman, 8-5.

“We went through a tough rebuilding year last year, so obviously we are hoping the pains of last year will pay dividends this year,” said Pettit. “I am going to have to admit, we kind of didn’t come through in some spots. This exposes what we need to work on, sort through some things and find how much character we have.”

Alleman jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Geneseo responded in the bottom of the frame with one run to tie the game.

The Lady Leafs took over the lead in the bottom of the third with three runs for a 4-1 advantage. Alleman plated one run in the fourth, five in the fifth and one in the sixth to regain control of the game, 8-4.

“We didn’t start well, but we did pull ourselves together with only one run scored and came back to tie,” said Pettit. “Taking a 4-1 lead showed what we should be doing and taking charge of the game, but then the wheels came off, and good teams can’t let that happen.”

Geneseo’s attempt at a rally in the bottom of the seventh fell short as the Lady Leafs only managed to bring in one run.

Yager recorded the loss as she gave up one hit and three runs; while Reddig allowed seven hits and five runs.

Shoemaker (1 RBI) led the Lady Leafs at the plate in the lead-off spot with three hits, which included a double.

Ricketts added two hits with one double; while Varland (1 RBI), Kain (2 RBIs), Gillette (1 RBI) and Rusk, all chipped in one hit with doubles from Gillette and Kain.

“(At the plate), we met our expectations,” said Pettit. “We expect our top of the order to be on base and the middle of the order to drive them in and that took place. Our hitting was good against a good team.”

The Lady Leafs (0-1 overall) will be in action at home tonight at 4:30 p.m. against Riverdale, and at 11 a.m. March 22 in a doubleheader against Rockridge.