Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Sports

March 14, 2014

Stew-Stras/Windsor co-op to challenge NTC

STEWARDSON — With seven starters from last season’s Stew-Stras softball team returning this spring and help from a co-op with Windsor, Comets head coach Kyle Knop said his team is looking to compete atop the National Trail Conference.

The Comets finished second in the NTC last season with a 6-2 conference record, finishing 11-8 overall, but lost in the regional final. Windsor finished the year 11-10, losing to their new teammates over in Stew-Stras at regionals. The two schools used to co-op, but have spent many years with their own separate teams, reforming this season.

Junior Kendall Knop is among the team’s top returning players and will anchor the pitching staff. She finished with a 9-2 record on the mound last season with a 2.83 ERA and 84 strikeouts, in 76 innings pitched.

Also, she hit .476 in the Comets’ lineup, earning Illinois Coaches Association second team All-State honors, as well as a place on the NTC All-Conference team and Daily News first team All-Area.

She will carry even more of the load this season because Kaskaskia College signee Courtney Schultz will be out of the rotation. However, Schultz, who hit .424 last season, will continue to anchor the left side of the infield at third base and shortstop.

Head coach Kyle Knop said he expects newcomer Becca Schlechte, senior Baylee Quast and junior Bayleigh Tabor to log important innings in the pitching circle.

Schlechte is a versatile freshman. Knop said she will play shortstop, catcher and second base when she’s not on the mound. Tabor will be an important utility player, spotting up at multiple positions this season. Quast is one of the good defensive outfielders on the team, Knop said, and is the outfielder with the best arm.

Lindsay Burton, an NTC All-Conference and Daily News all-area player, returns for her senior season to lead the catcher duties. She hit .442 last season.

The Comets also return seniors Megan Cress, an outfielder with speed, and Kennedy Ferris, a first baseman with power at the plate, rounding out a five-player senior class.

Madison Quast returns as the Comets starting third baseman last season, but Knop said she’ll see time in the outfield and as a designated player. Kaitlin Slifer and Mercedez Austin will also be used as designated players.

Austin, a sophomore, is one of the underclassmen who add to the team’s depth this season, Knop said. Twenty players will be on the team this season. Freshman Katie Greuel is another one of those players. Knop said Greuel has an opportunity to contribute at the varsity level this season.

Knop said he expects the team to have a winning season and to compete for an NTC championship, but said Altamont will be a “very tough” team this season, returning a lot of talent, including Deidre Ledbetter.

The Comets squad also includes juniors Skylar Vonderheide and Cheyenne Hernandez, sophomore Taylor Reynolds and freshmen Desirae Milligan, Skyler Darby, Kaylee Newkirk, Gillian Sanders, and Kaitlyn McCoy.

 

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