Stars ready to hit the field

Mar. 17—Coming off back-to-back sectional titles, the Western Boone softball team will look a little different this year.

But while there will be some different pieces, the goals for the Stars haven't changed as they get ready for the upcoming season.

"We just want to get better each game," Western Boone head coach Mike Vanderpool said. "We want to keep on improving and coming together as a team. The goal is to get that coming together by the middle of the season. We are pretty new and have some inexperience, so we just want to keep on coming together."

The Stars have been officially practicing for almost two weeks now, after having an off-season of workouts as well.

Vanderpool said the the experienced players have done a good job of helping lead the workouts so far.

"We have Gabby (Lewis) back at pitcher, and we are looking for her to carry us a little bit this year," Vanderpool said. "We have some experience back in the infield too, which is going to help. We are young, especially in the outfield, but they are stepping up and improving every practice."

The Stars return Lewis, who had a 1.87 ERA in the circle last year, striking out 115 in 123.1 innings. She also hit .361 with 24 runs scored and 17 RBIs.

Also back is Emily Conyer, who hit .393 with 26 runs scored and Emma Shirley, who .362 with four triples and 27 runs scored.

"We have four captains in Emily Conyer, Gabby Lewis, Makenzie Amich and Emma Shirley," Vanderpool said. "We are looking for them to be great leaders for us. We have a couple of freshmen this year that we hope really help us. And Mickayla Nannos is back after getting some varsity time last year and we are looking for her to step up into a bigger role."

Vanderpool said that the top of the Stars lineup can really be a strength for the team, filled with several top returning players.

He said he is looking forward to seeing the constant improvement through the rest of the line-up as they get more accustom to varsity softball.

Vanderpool said a lot of the early practices have been focused on some of the fundamental things.

"We are focused on things like base running and knowing the game — knowing when to be aggressive, and maybe when not to," Vanderpool said. "It takes games and experience to learn some of those things, so the more games we get under our belts, the better we will be."

The Stars have two games next week before Spring Break, traveling to Noblesville on Tuesday before hosting Sheridan on Thursday.

The game against the Millers is one of five against 4A opponents, including three in the first four games.

"We just keep telling the girls they can learn a lot from those games," Vanderpool said. "Just seeing how they warm up and how they present themselves on the field. Those games make us tougher in the long run, and gets us prepared for our conference and sectional. I like playing those tough games."

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.