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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Graduation hit the Ridgewood High softball program hard this season, with the Lady Generals losing a total of five four-year letterwinners.
Gone from the roster are experienced veterans in Sadie Wilson, Jayden Wentz, Kayla Sharier, Morgan McDorman and Paige Patterson.
Patterson earned first team all-Eastern District and honorable mention all-Inter-Valley Conference honors last year, with Wilson receiving first team all-Eastern District and second team all-IVC recognition.
"That's a big hit to our program," veteran RHS coach Kirby Shivers offered. "Those were five girls who played key roles for us and we will miss them. We just need to have some players step up this season."
Luckily for Shivers, who enters his 19th season guiding the Lady Generals softball program, the talent cupboard is far from empty coming off a 14-11 season last year, including a 9-7 mark in the Inter-Valley Conference.
Ridgewood welcomes back seven returning letterwinners including a pair of senior three-year veterans -- Audrey Tingle (CF/INF) and Autumn Brown (SS/3B) -- to lead the way.
Tingle was the leading hitter for RHS last spring with a .405 batting average with eight triples and 15 RBIs en route to reeling in second team all-Eastern District and all-IVC honors.
"Audrey is just a special player...a great athlete," Shivers added. "She could play anywhere we need her but will mostly hold down center field for us and anchor our outfield."
Brown will be making a position switch moving from the outfield to play shortstop this season.
"Autumn is another good athlete and I feel she will do a good job at shortstop for us," Shivers explained. "I'm confident she will be up to the challenge of the position change."
Brown checked in with a .305 average with 16 RBIs a year ago.
Yet another experienced veteran back in the RHS lineup is senior Megan Sharier (2B/OF), who will play second base.
"Megan is a very dedicated player who has worked very hard," Shivers stated. "She has earned her time and now its her turn to shine out there on the field."
Shivers is hoping that his veteran trio can provide solid leadership for his Lady Generals.
"We need them to be good leaders," Shivers said. "Those three have been around the program and they know what I expect. We're a really young team and we're going to have to gain experience fast. It's definitely going to be a challenge from a numbers standpoint but it's a challenge we're up for."
A spot Shivers feels comfortable with is his pitching with the return of sophomore letterwinner Sydney Zinkon, who comes off an impressive season.
Zinkon (P/INF) complied a 6-4 pitching mark with an ERA of 2.37 while offensively, she was the second leading hitter for RHS with a .347 average with 14 RBIs and was selected to the second team all-Eastern District squad.
"Sydney started out 6-0 last year before an injury got her," Shivers offered. "We expect a lot out of her and she's been in the weight room during the offseason to get herself stronger and she's only going to get better. Sydney has set a goal to get her ERA under 2.00 this year and I think she can reach that"
Shivers also gets back a trio of sophomore letterwinners who made an impact last year as freshmen and figure to play even a larger role this time around -- Morgan Matis (1B/P/OF), Rachel Simpson (3B/OF) and Sadie Wilson (C/3B).
"Those three girls all got some valuable experience last year," Shivers said. "They are talented and will push to be in the line-up somewhere for us this year."
Another talented sophomore for RHS will be Kailee Harris (C/INF), a transfer student from River View who lettered last season as a freshman.
"Kailee will miss the first 12 games or so due to the transfer rules," Shivers said, "but once we get her, she will help us in a lot of spots and she can also pitch. She played all summer with us, so she's been able to blend in well with the team."
Filling out the 13-player Lady Generals' roster are junior Kacia Eckleberry (OF), sophomore Alexis Griffith (1B/OF) and freshmen Jorryn Wentz (P/OF), Hannah Soles (OF/INF) and Alyssa Dillon (INF/OF).
"I like our depth. We have players who can step in and contribute," Shivers continued, "but we don't have great numbers, so will need to stay healthy."
Shivers coaching staff this season includes Tina Parimeter, Sally Sharier, Kayla Sharier and Paige Patterson.
Shivers sees a "Big 3" when looking at the IVC race entering the new season with Strasburg, Garaway and Sandy Valley.
"Those three schools are all very strong," Shivers offered. "I've said it before, but the IVC is just strong from top to bottom and always very competitive each night.
"We want another winning season," Shivers said, "and we expect to challenge for the upper half of the league. We also want to be playing our best come tournament time and I believe we can compete with anybody on any given day."