GNADENHUTTEN -- Looking to improve upon last spring's 11-13 record, second-year coach Aaron Kochman welcomed 17 candidates for the 2013 Indian Valley Lady Brave varsity softball team.
Kochman is buoyed by the fact that he has only three players to replace due to graduation. The departed are Kayleigh Moore (an assistant this season), Rikki Ohler (an all-Ohioan last spring) and Vanessa Zeigler.
"We'll definitely miss their leadership," Kochman offered, "in addition to their abilities."
Among the varsity players are 10 returning letterwinners, headed by senior second baseman Maddie Kenndey. The senior has earned three letters and will look to shore up the middle infield defense.
Returning two-year letterwinners are junior pitcher Kelsey Kochman and junior third baseman Katie Shamel.
Single letterwinners are senior second baseman Elizabeth Smith, junior pitcher Amanda Jones, junior outfielder Bailey Stull, junior catcher Alex Smart, sophomore outfielder Baili Fox, sophomore first baseman Jayme Hykes and sophomore shortstop Brea Rennard.
The remainder of the roster includes juniors Larissa Barton (outfield), Harlie Crouse (outfield) and Katelyn Regula (first base). Other varsity sophomores are Steph Risher (outfield) and Olivia Shaw (pitcher) while additional varsity freshmen are Jamie Beamer (catcher) and Riley Wire (catcher).
Of the above mentioned players, Barton, Crouse, Regula, Smart and Stull may also see action in selected junior varsity games.
Additional JV players include junior Madison Kenney (outfield), sophs Emily McMahon (outfield/second base) and Kaylee Stephen (outfield/catcher) along with newcomers Hailey Deibel (pitcher), McKenzie Higgins (catcher/first base), Cortney Mizer (pitcher/first base), Emily Smith (second base) and Summer Specht (catcher).
Kochman noted more experienced pitching as a potential strength this season.
"(Kelsey) Kochman and Jones both return," he added, "and they logged most of the innings last year. Right now, our hitting and defense is looking solid.
"Question marks would be that we have just average team speed and we're not sure how our young girls will handle varsity play," he added.
Asked for a prediction on the 2013 PAC title chase, Kochman pointed to Manchester and Triway as the teams to beat.
In addition to the customary PAC opponents, the Lady Braves will also square off against non-league competition including New Philadelphia, Claymont, Newcomerstown, Ridgewood, Sandy Valley, Carrollton, Buckeye Trail, Garaway and Dover.
In addition to the recently graduated Moore, Kochman will be assisted by Harold Shade and Morgan Miles.
The Lady Brave schedule kicks off on Monday, April 1 with a home PAC encounter against Tuscarawas Valley.