Possibilities seem endless for Chambersburg softball
Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety summed up his expectations for the upcoming softball season simply: "On paper, we're probably one of the best teams in the state. But you know what paper means? Absolutely nothing."
Confidence is flying, and the possibilities seem endless for the Lady Trojans, who are the reigning District 3 Class 4A champions and were a PIAA semifinals a year ago.
But Skultety isn't letting Chambersburg get ahead of itself yet.
"The hardest thing with such success last year is you want to get right to the playoffs," he said. "But we're going to build one day at a time here. We're not going to talk about last year anymore."
Chambersburg, which has moved up to Class 6A this season, graduated just one key player, third baseman Tara Harmon, from last year's squad. But Skultety has a fine plan to replace her.
Reigning P.O. Player of the Year Leah Hunt will be moving to third, while sophomore Alexis Estep will take over the shortstop duties.
"Leah is just an amazing fielder," Trojan catcher Caeley Etter said. "She can get anything that comes to her. Alexis has a lot of good speed and a good glove in her hand, so I definitely think she'll do well at short."
As for Harmon's obvious vocal leadership, that'll now be in the hands of Etter.
"Caeley Etter is the general, and she's gotta run the show," Skultety said. "She's gotta keep everyone in line, tell the pitchers when they're not doing something right. She's gotta be harsh, but truthful, and we trust each other enough that we can be honest no matter if it's good or bad."
Luckily for Etter, knowing the Trojan pitching staff, most of it will be good.
Laken Myers (1.86 ERA last season) and Sam Bender (1.38) will once again rotate as starters, with Dori Loukopoulos getting a bit more work as well. Like last season, Hunt (0.97), nicknamed "The Goose", will enter in relief.
"We still have all four senior pitchers, and we're all pretty much the same," Myers said. "We can push each other and do what we need to do to get it done. Since this is our senior year, our catcher has caught us plenty of times and she knows what we work."
Skultety said, "Dori has looked real sharp in the offseason. We'll bring her in to try to get a batter out or work an inning when we need her, but it'll mostly be Sam and Laken back and forth with Leah to close the door."
Bender and Myers will switch off first-base duties, and rounding out the infield will be Maggie Myers at second. The outfield will likely be made up of Lexi Leedy, Kara Neidigh and Taylor Myers, while Molly Keefer and Kiersten Pugh may see some time on the infield.
The Trojans were lights-out hitters last season with a team batting average of 0.338. Hunt (.540) and Loukopoulos (.406) led the way, while Leedy (.345), Etter (.339) and Myers (.333) were also heavy-hitters.
"We still need consistency of our bats," Etter said. "We all have a lot of power, but it's just a matter of getting it to string together, especially in games. If we can really get that together, we'll come out with a bang this year."
Skultety said, "I think we're a lot faster this year bringing in Taylor Myers and Kara Neidigh. Nos. 1 through 9 is going to be tough to get us out. There's not really a hole in the lineup, even when we do bring in people off the bench, we're pretty strong."
One major thing Chambersburg will be up against is the target on its back. Not only will the Mid Penn Commonwealth Division teams be gunning for the Trojans, they're also the team to beat in District 3.
"Well, hey, we like a challenge, don't we?" Hunt said.
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Chris Skultety, second year.
Last season: 24-5 (12-2 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division champions); won District 3 Class 4A championship in extra innings against Penn Manor; lost in the state semifinals to Hempfield Area, 2-0.
Returning starters: Leah Hunt (sr., P/SS, P.O. Player of the Year); Laken Myers (sr., 1B/P, P.O. First Team, Gardner-Webb commit); Dori Loukopoulos (jr., DH/P, P.O. First Team); Sam Bender (sr., 1B/P, P.O. Second Team, Iona commit); Maggie Myers (sr., 2B, P.O. Second Team); Lexi Leedy (sr., LF, P.O. Honorable Mention); Caeley Etter (sr., C, Mount St. Mary's commit); Alexis Estep (so., RF/SS)
Other top players: Kiersten Pugh (sr., 3B); Kara Neidigh (so., OF); Taylor Myers (fr., OF); Molly Keefer (so., 2B/OF)
Season opener: Monday, at home vs. Waynesboro, 4:15