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Pitching staff a plus for Chambersburg softball

Pitching is easily the most important position in softball.

If a softball team has one dominant pitcher, it can usually ride her a long way.

So the fact Chambersburg boasts four strong junior pitchers should work in the Trojans' favor this season.

"I think our staff of four solid pitchers is deeper than most staffs," new Chamberburg coach Chris Skultety said. "A lot of people depend on one or two pitchers, and we don't have to do that. Now, we may ride one or two girls if they're hot, but if not, we have lots of opportunities to move kids around."

Laken Myers returns with the most experience; she threw 76 innings and had a 1.10 ERA. Leah Hunt and Sam Bender both pitched right around 22 innings and kept their ERAs below 2.20. Joining the staff will be Dori Loukopoulos, who showed promise at the JV level a year ago.

"We definitely have a strong pitching staff," Bender said. "We all have different variety in the way we pitch, and I think it'll be really hard for batters to catch on to it if (Skultety) keeps mixing us in like we have been. We all pitch with speed; Dori has a lot of movement pitchers, and she definitely throws off batters a lot."

The staff will be coached by Emily Estep, a Chambersburg graduate and former Shippensburg University All-American.

"We have four pitchers that are all pretty equal and all pretty good," Skultety said. "If they're pitching well, we'll leave them in, but if they're starting to struggle, we're not waiting around. Estep knows - she's in charge of them, and she knows if one doesn't have it. We feel good about moving on to the next one."

While Chambersburg doesn't boast a lot of speed, it does feel confident defensively. When not pitching, Hunt will start at shortstop, and standout Tara Harmon will be back at third base. Myers, Bender and Loukopoulos will split the first-base duties depending on who's in the circle, and junior Maggie Myers will man second.

Starting in the outfield will be Kiersten Pugh, Lexi Leedy and freshman Alexis Estep. Finally, Caeley Etter will take over the catching duties, replacing former team captain Lily Nolan.

"I feel our defense can go get the ball in the outfield, and even though we're moving some people around, our defense along with our pitching is going to be very good," Skultety said. "Our catcher is very, very good, and she can throw some people out. We need her to be the general, control the field, be vocal and handle this pitching staff."

The Trojans may also see some help with baserunning from JV players Molly Keefer, Kara Neidigh and Alyssa Wingert.

Rounding out Chambersburg's strength this year will once again be its power hitting. The Trojans don't have a ton of speed, but they finished with 14 home runs a year ago. Hunt had six and Bender smashed four.

"With the bats, I believe we're still going to have the power," Harmon said. "I think that's what a lot of teams don't have. They have speed and everything, but we have the power."

Chambersburg also enters the season with a sense of confidence it hasn't had in awhile. Working under a new coach and having a new team chemistry have brought the Trojans together in a myriad of ways.

"We had alumni come in, and it was cool to listen to their stories, and in the four years I've been here, we've never had that," Harmon said. "The closeness and bonding is really amazing. We'll use (alumni) Mandy Bell and Alexis Shearer, who taught us about family. The communication is something you can see on the field, too. We're talking to each other, and that's important on offense and defense."

Trojans at a glance

Coach: Chris Skultety, first year; takes over for co-coaches Ted Bittinger and Lenny Carbaugh, five seasons, 66-41 (.617). 

Last year: 14-8 (8-6 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division); lost in the District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinals to Daniel Boone, 5-0.

Returning starters: Tara Harmon (sr., 3B, P.O. Second Team), Caeley Etter (jr., C), Leah Hunt (jr., SS/P, P.O. First Team), Laken Myers (jr., 1B/P, P.O. honorable mention), Sam Bender (jr., 1B/P).

Other top players: Maggie Myers (jr., 2B), Kiersten Pugh (jr., OF), Alexis Estep (fr., RF/SS), Lexi Leedy (jr., LF), Dori Loukopoulos (jr., P/1B). 

Season opener: Tuesday, at home vs. Central Dauphin, 4:15.