Alex looks to rebound after disappointing spring 2020 cancellation

Rob Hunt, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·4 min read

Mar. 21—ALEXANDRIA — Few area athletic departments enjoyed as much spring success in 2019 as Alexandria. Both the state champion baseball and sectional champion girls tennis teams returned most of their rosters for title defenses in 2020 as did a 19-9 CIC champion softball team armed with the area's player of the year.

That made the COVID cancellations of 2020 a touch more heartbreaking for the Tigers.

While the bulk of that baseball team's lineup is now playing at the college level, key contributors return along with coach Jeff Closser. The Tigers netters are back, with the exception of area player of the year McKenzie Adams, and the softball team still has its own area player of the year in Kaitlyn Bair as well as all-area pitcher Kendall Parker. The track-and-field teams will have talent to watch this postseason, and a young boys golf team will look to regroup.

Here is a glance at some of the key Tigers athletes this spring as well as some thoughts from the coaches ahead of the season, which begins with the Alexandria Baseball Invitational on April 3.

BASEBALL

Head Coach: Jeff Closser (15th season); 2019: 29-5, CIC and Class 2A state champions; Key Losses: Cade Vernetti, Miller Abernathy, Brennan Morehead, Trey Stokes, Brandan Patz, Rylan Metz, Bub Misner, Brayton Gaines, Nick Williams; Key Returning Players: Kole Stewart, Brendan Luzader.

Outlook: "We will be very young with half our roster incoming freshmen, but as always we will work hard, and hopefully by conference we will have things figured out and be competitive," Closser said in an email. "As always, our expectations are to work hard every day and to represent our school, AT baseball, and community to the best of our ability."

BOYS GOLF

Head Coach: Bruce Johnson (5th season); 2019: 8-7; Key Losses: M.J. Hosier, Styler Martini, Hunter Cuneo; Key Returning Player: Jayden Stansberry; Newcomers to Watch: Colton Eden, Isaiah Fye, Tyler Gaines; Potential Breakout: Owen Harpe.

Outlook: "We are a very young team with only one returning player, so we have work to do," Johnson said. "I think we will start out slow but gain ground as the year goes on and have the kids learning the game and having fun but competing at the same time."

GIRLS TENNIS

Head Coach: Matt Devault (27th season, 309-138); 2019: 15-4, CIC, Madison County and sectional champions; Key Losses: McKenzie Adams; Key Returning Players: Reiley Hiser, Carlie Remington, Kelsey Rhoades, Rylee Pyle, Taylor Stinefield, Ally Honeycutt, Gracyn Hosier; Newcomers to Watch: Lauren Dungan, Emily Leever, Kara Simison, Tinslie Closser, Gabby Hosier, Alyssa Ryan, Addy Warren, Allie Clark; Potential Breakout: Dungan, Remington.

Outlook: "We were extremely sad not to get to defend our titles," Devault said. "We are one of only two sports teams in Alexandria to ever capture all three in the same season, and we were in a strong position to battle for all three again. Two years removed, and the playing field can be completely different. One advantage we have is we only lost one player over the last two years, but it was a big one."

SOFTBALL

Head Coach: Sarah Almack (5th season); 2019: 19-9, CIC champions; Key Losses: Kirsten VanHorn, Alexis Bean; Key Returning Players: Kaitlyn Bair, Cali Humphries, Alliyah Standridge, Katie Duckworth, Madisyn Standridge, Kendall Parker, Tristen Dunn, Anzlee Thomas; Newcomers to Watch: Ashlynn Duckworth, Madi Weir, Taylor Roundtree, Kailyn Flowers, Emma Smith; Potential Breakout: Duckworth, Weir.

Outlook: "Our goal is big, but we are mighty," Almack said. "We have a very strong upperclass, and they are ready to show it more than ever. Most of our girls have been playing since their season was cut short last year, and it shows. We are ready. As long as we can maintain a healthy team, we can go far. This team hasn't won a sectional title, and this year I know they want it more than ever."

TRACK AND FIELD

Head Coach: Scott Zent; 2019: Boys Madison County runners-up; Key Losses: Brooke Ancil, Madison Zent, Elijah Burnett, Jon Abbott; Key Returning Athletes: Michael Sweigart, Avree Jenkins, Jordan Bodie, Reanna Stinson; Potential Breakout: Sweigart, Stinson, Olivia Ward.

Outlook: "The 2019 season was very successful for the Tigers," coach Zent said in an email. "We finished the season qualifying four Tigers for the regional meets. The final honor of the season — and I believe the most important — came when five different members of the Tiger track team were named academic all-state."

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.