SHELBY — Shelby softball coach Samantha Martin cannot help but to get excited when looking up and down her 2022 roster.
There are eight letter-winners returning from a 2021 team that went 12-16 and six of them are starters. She has two very good senior leaders and a plethora of underclassmen who are loaded with talent and are ready to follow the lead of those seniors.
Just a year and half into her reign as coach, Martin isn't afraid to set some high standards for her program.
"Our team goals are to continue to get better every day and the goal is always to try and win an MOAC championship and make it as far as we can in the tournament," Martin said.
Shelby opens the season March 26 at home against Huron.
The Whippets start with senior catcher Allexis Thompson, who is back as a four-year start behind the plate. She hit .393 last season, but her defensive presence was felt much more than her bat as she only committed three errors last year. She collected 33 hits, 17 RBIs, 32 runs scored and three home runs last season.
Junior Alyssa Neill is back at first base after hitting .444 last season with 36 hits, 28 RBIs, 24 runs scored and five home runs, while junior Demi Hipp is back at second base after hitting .200 as a sophomore.
Senior Sadie Smith returns to third base, and her leadership along with Thompson's will be the focus during the preseason. Smith hit .427 last season and will be the main offensive weapon for the Whippets. She had 35 hits, 17 RBIs, 32 runs scored and three home runs a year ago.
Sophomore Mallary Gundrum is back at shortstop after a breakout freshman season in which she batted .427 with 35 hits, 28 RBIs, 29 runs scored and six home runs.
Sophomores Kendal Parsons, Maggie Bogner and Alexis Booker all return for a second season. Bogner missed all of last season with an injury while Parsons hit .284 and Booker hit .273 as freshmen. Junior Macy Roll and freshmen Hailey Stamper and Kendra Walp will bring depth to the roster.
The pitching staff is super young with Booker, sophomore Kelsey Snyder and freshmen Alyssa Booker, Adey Cornette and Kennedy Struder all expected to see time in the circle.
"The players on my team you should watch for are both of our four-year letter-winning seniors," Martin said. "Sadie and Lexi were both first-team All-MOAC players and have a ton of experience with great bats. Lexi is dominant behind the plate and Sadie has one of the best gloves on the team."
With a nice mixture of youth and experience, Martin said how well the Whippets do this season completely depends on how quickly her players can come together as one unit.
"The biggest X-factor for our team to have a successful season is for the girls to gel together and for our girls with the experience to help your younger players," Martin said. "Also, our pitching is very young for them to hit their spots will be key."
Shelby finished with a 5-8 record in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, so it hopes it can flip that around and make some progress as it continues to grow the program.
"The MOAC in softball is always very competitive," Martin said. "We hope to fit in mid-pack or higher this upcoming season."
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Shelby returns eight letter-winners, six starters from last year