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Rebuilding Lady Spartans Seek Return to Winning Softball

With the loss of seven seniors from last year, Francis Howell Central has a lot of holes to fill in 2011.

As soon as the 2010 season was over, the Francis Howell Central girls varsity softball team wanted to wipe it away from their memory.

And for good reason.

The 2010 Lady Spartan softball season just was not a good one.

The team went 8-17, the first losing season at Howell Central this century, and finished last in the GAC South, without winning any conference games at all last year, in what was a difficult season for sure for head coach Brenda Gabril.

“I kind of think of it as a transition year,” Gabril said. “We moved from 40 feet in the pitcher’s circle to 43 feet, and we just had trouble adjusting.”

Gabril, the former Brenda Ellison who changed her last name after getting married during the offseason, said the new pitching distance meant teams had to play better defense because opposing batters were more likely to put the ball in play. Gabril said the Lady Spartans were “terrible” in the field last year.

“It was just a bad year,” Gabril said. “We had chemistry problems with some of the girls too. Some of the girls really didn’t get along well. It was a problem. But we’ve had a talk with all the girls this year, and (things) are a lot better.”

With the personality issues hopefully resolved, the Lady Spartans have another problem that needs fixing this year—figuring out how to replace graduated senior Elizabeth Leath’s .552 batting average, eight home runs, and 26 RBIs.

“I don’t think we can,” Gabril said. “We have three or four girls that might be able to hit the ball out like Leath did, but we’re going to have to be a team that manufactures runs and uses our speed. That’s what we’re going to have to do to win games.”

Howell Central does have several players returning from last year, including outfielder and likely leadoff hitter Katie Janis, second baseman Kara Snyder, third baseman Taylor Huskey, and designated hitter Kayla Schneider.

The Lady Spartans also bring back one of their top pitchers from last year in senior Brittany Stocker.

Gabril anticipates Stocker being Howell Central’s No. 1 starter this year, but said freshman Kristin Kolkmeyer is also challenging for the position.

The Lady Spartans also have quite a competition for the starting catcher’s job with sophomore Abby Boehmer battling it out with freshman Becca Stocker.

“Our seniors are gonna have to be our leaders,” Gabril said. “Things have been going well so far, but we’ll have to see what happens when the games start.”

Howell Central will open the season on Friday, August 26, when it will play in the Leadoff Classic, a season-opening tournament at Troy (MO) High.

That evening, the Lady Spartans will play one game against Fort Zumwalt South High at 2:30 p.m., and a second game against Winnetonka High at 6 p.m.

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