ORLEANSâ€“Coming off of a season where they reached the quarter-finals, the Lake Region softball team is looking to maintain that same level of play in 2012.
"We have set the bar pretty high over the last three years, and the group we have coming back this year is a veteran group, so they know what is expected," said head coach Matt Tinker.
Depth has been an asset for the Rangers in recent seasons, and they will have to utilize that depth again this year to fill some holes in the line-up.
Lake Region lost four players to graduation last year, all four being major contributors to the team.
And to make matters worse, starting short-stop and clean-up hitter Emily Comins went down late in the basketball season with an ACL injury and is expected to miss the entire season.
The good news is that Tinker has the resources to overcome these obstacles and still put a very good product on the field.
"We have fifteen or sixteen girls that can play at the varsity level, which is good and it's bad," said Tinker. "There will be some tough decisions and some girls will be disappointed, but from our standpoint it is good that we have so many that can play varsity ball."
One of the top concerns for high school softball coaches is pitching, but for Tinker, that is not a problem.
Michelle Thibeault will be the primary hurler for the Lady Rangers this season. The sophomore has plenty of experience for someone her age, seeing a fair amount of action as a freshman, including pitching the Rangers to a first round play-off win.
Said Tinker, "We werenâ€™t counting on her much (last year), we figured she would get the innings at JV and be ready to come in this year, but she forced her way onto the team and won five games for us, so she will be our ace out there."
Hannah Leroux will pick up the innings when Thibeault needs a rest, and Sarah Burnham has the ability to step in if needed.
On defense Tinker says there are still two positions up for grabs, but the remaining spots are pretty locked down.
Around the infield Burnham will return to the hot corner, and Leroux, Chelsey Thibeault and Stephanie Merchant will share duties at first base.
Kayla Royer will be starting somewhere, likely at short-stop for the injured Comins.
Corrina Cota will get the bulk of the time behind the plate, but Chelsey Thibeault will also be called upon to strap on the pads.
In the outfield Whitney Poginy, with her Gold Glove caliber defense, will be in center with Callie Cashin in left.
That leaves second and right as the two undetermined spots to filled, and likely it will be a three way battle between, Sabrina Roberge, Alyssa Royer and Vickie Arnold for playing time at these positions.
Tinker said that last season's Lady Rangers had the best offense in the Mountain Division, and he believes that this year's group has the chance to be one of the best in the league again.
"Everybody realizes that you still have to go out there and work on it. There is room to grow every year, and I don't want our girls to get complacent, but if they work as hard this year as they did last year, I think we should be able to hit anybody we see."
As far as the order goes, Tinker was still undetermined, but did note that Corrina Cota and her .500 plus average will make the move from lead-off to clean-up.
Lake Region opens the season today as they hit the road to take on BFA Faifax.
Game time is