Young Lake Forest softball team eyes fifth straight tournament appearance

Freshman Ja’lyne Bailey throws a pitch during Lake Forest’s play day scrimmage at Sussex Tech High March 16. Bailey is battling with fellow freshman Karly Cain for time in the circle. She also plays infield for the team. (Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

FELTON — The Lake Forest High softball squad has a new look heading into the 2019 season.

While the Spartans only lost four seniors from last year’s DIAA state tournament team, all four of those players were key contributors in the starting lineup and on the field.

Lake coach Ashlie Tatman is turning to a group of underclassmen to step in and fill those voids.

“I lost basically my entire infield last year and I have basically anywhere from three to four infielders who are freshmen this year,” she explained. “It’s just going to be all about how we work together as a unit and figuring each other out.”

When regular season competition gets underway at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Mount Pleasant High in Wilmington, the Spartans will be seeking to make its fifth consecutive DIAA state tournament appearance.

Over that four-year span, Lake has accumulated a record of 56-24 (including tournament) and earned a top 16 seed in each of those seasons.

The Spartans won at least one tournament game in three of those four seasons.

After grabbing the 10th seed in last year’s tourney and upsetting No. 7 Indian River High in the opening round, the Spartans dropped a 3-1 loss to the eventual state champion Smyrna High squad in the quarterfinals.

With a combined seven freshmen and sophomores heading into this season, Tatman is still trying to figure out where everyone will fit best before they think about a deep tourney run.

Sophomore Jessica Reed rounds third base and heads home to score a run against Sussex Tech March 16.

“I think right now our goal is to establish everyone’s roles on the team,” said Tatman. “With us being so young, you don’t really know – as a coach – what to expect. But I do know that these girls are going to work hard and play hard no matter what we do.”

This year’s roster of 12 includes four seniors, one junior, three sophomores and four freshmen.

Two of those four freshmen will see plenty of action in the team’s three-player pitching rotation.

“We have three main pitchers right now — two freshmen and a junior — so we’re just rotating them through,” said Tatman. “Right now, they’re all fighting for a spot, but they’re all three going to play a very integral role in our season this year.”

Kayley Joiner is the squad’s lone junior and when she’s not spending time in the pitcher’s circle, she could see playing time at first base or in the outfield.

Ja’lyne Bailey and Karly Cain are the two freshmen battling for playing time in the circle, but they are also listed on the team’s roster as infielders.

“They’re all very beneficial to us right now, all three of them,” said Tatman. “They’re all really supportive of one another and it’s all about the team as a unit working out the kinks with a new group of girls.”

Catcher Addyson Stewart and first baseman/outfielders Jenna Troyer round out the freshman class.

Sophomores Alexis Stahre, Jessica Reed and Rachel Brzezicki return from last season’s 12-6 varsity team and will likely each see a larger role this season.

“I think my sophomores have really improved since last year,” said Tatman. “I’ve seen a lot of great things out of them already and they’re actually starting to come out of their shell a little bit more and talk and communicate.”

While Grace Aguilar started in center field as a junior in 2018, the West Chester University-bound senior will move to shortstop this season, teaming up with fellow senior Abigail Collins in the middle infield.

“Grace has been a really nice addition to the infield,” said Tatman. “She can play anywhere; she can catch, she can play in the infield, she can play in the outfield. Her spot this year is going to be a leader in the infield for us, along with Abigail Collins.”

Aguilar and Collins are the only two returning seniors, joined by fellow seniors Shayla Wynder and Phelisha Scott.

Wynder, an outfielder, was on junior varsity last year while first baseman/outfielder Scott missed her junior year to injury.

The four seniors will provide leadership for the younger girls, but Tatman isn’t relying on just the seniors for that leadership.

“I’m expecting leadership out of everyone this year,” she said.

Staff writer Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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