Bucs softball team turning to freshman pitching duo

Morgan Petty touches home plate and is greeted by Milford teammates after hitting a home run last season at Cape Henlopen. Delaware State News file photos

MILFORD — With the Morgan Abbott era coming to an end last season, the Milford High softball program is prepared to hand the ball over to a freshman duo in the pitcher’s circle this year.

The last three seasons with primarily Abbott in the pitcher’s circle resulted in two winning seasons, consecutive DIAA state tournament appearances and a state title.

The Bucs have accumulated a 37-22 record (including state tourney) over that span.

Coach Sean Brennan is excited to have options in the pitcher’s circle this season, though.

“We have two kids — Bianca Salisbury and Ashley Bullock — who can pitch, which is a luxury for us because we haven’t had that in a long time, so we’re excited about that. They’ve done a good job this spring,” said Brennan.

Returning All-State catcher Courtney “C.J.” Kohel has been doing her part to make sure the freshmen are comfortable in the pitcher’s circle.

“I’ve just been trying to make sure they don’t get frustrated, and when they do get frustrated I just go out there and tell them little jokes or something to help get their minds off everything that’s going on. It’s been pretty helpful for them,” said the senior Kohel.

Head coach Sean Brennan coaches third base during a game against Cape Henlopen last year.

Following a March 22 rainout against Middletown High, the Bucs will now open the 2019 campaign Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Rodney High (4:15 p.m. first pitch).

Kohel and fellow All-State selection Morgan Petty return to lead the Bucs’ senior class, alongside Khya Reynolds.

“Everybody is really working together and we’re having fun while we’re doing it,” said Kohel.

Petty, who is set to play Division I softball at University at Albany next year, will start at center field. Reynolds is set to start at shortstop.

“There’s a totally different vibe to our ball club this year,” said Brennan. “We’re a lot closer than we were a year ago, we’re more focused and goal-driven in what we want to accomplish this season than we were a year ago and the work ethic has been great and that’s all a result of the leadership of these seniors.”

“We’re really young, but even though we’re young I don’t think we let that effect our game play,” said Petty.

Juniors Emily Sickles and Madison Lynch will each see time at first base, with freshmen Bullock and Abby Justice seeing playing time at second base. Reynolds will start at shortstop while junior Macey Myers returns to her spot at third base.

Returning senior Khya Reynolds makes the throw from shortstop to first base during a game last year.

“Because of the leadership we have, everyone has felt comfortable in just playing softball, so our minds haven’t been on the non-softball things. Everyone’s had a good work ethic and approach in what we’re trying to do,” said Brennan.

“Yeah, there’s some inexperience there and this is a different level, playing varsity softball versus middle school, but they do play travel ball on a good travel team, so they have experience playing the game of softball.”

Joining Petty in the outfield is sophomore Haleigh Baker in left field and sophomore transfer Lilly Pusey, coming to Milford from Cape Henlopen High, in right field.

“As a group, we weren’t gelling together in the beginning, but I think after these last two scrimmages we’ve really gotten to learn each other,” Petty said of the outfield.

Petty is hitting leadoff this season, which is something she’s not quite used to doing, but she is excited for the opportunity.

Returning senior Morgan Petty takes a swing during a road game at Cape Henlopen High last season.

“I’m doing something a little different this year,” she said. “I like it a lot because it gives me a different feel that I’ve never gotten before.

“Coach said we need people who are consistent in being disciplined and watching the ball, and he said I brought that to the table, which is really cool for him to say. I’m really excited for it.”

Kohel, Petty, Reynolds, Myers and Sickles were all members of the 2017 state title team and the 2018 team that lost to Caravel Academy, 11-1, in the opening round of last year’s tourney.

“Early in the Caravel game last year, we made some mistakes that hurt us, and you can’t do that against a quality ball club. We made too many that day,” said Brennan. “We just tried to do too much at the plate.”

Brennan knows all the team has to do is get to the state tournament and anything can happen.

He proved that two years ago when the Bucs won the state championship as the tournament’s 11th seed.

“That’s always the goal. Try to win the conference and obviously make the tournament,” he said. “That’s always my philosophy, make the tournament and anything can happen. I don’t care where we are [in the tourney], anything can happen.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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