Softball (Girls V)

Springs Valley Softball opens season with new faces, new roles aplenty

By Dylan Apple | Mar 21, 2024 12:00 AM


The Springs Valley softball program continued its upward trend last season. Back in 2018—In coach Jill Bonta’s first season—the Blackhawks went 3-16 but they have progressively gotten better over the years, going 12-10 last spring and finally capturing a Patoka Lake Athletic Conference championship. This spring we’ll see Karson Dalton, Lily Hickman, Kaylee McNeely, and Molly Tucker return to help defend their PLAC championship, but a lot of the faces around them will be new to fans. Lola Kovas, Olivia Allen, Ella Paredes, and Tanessa Jackson have all joined the team. Outside of those freshmen, Springs Valley is hoping to get contributions from Marissa Marshall, Maci Eckerty, Christina Hunt, Mikaela Cavazos, Elliott Wininger, Mei Phan Tung Long, and Josie Robison. Valley’s sophomores specifically could fill in some holes. Eckerty played in 13 varsity games last season and led the team with two triples. She finished with a .261 batting average with five stolen bases also. Eckerty will also help the team out by being able to play all positions on the field. Wininger also got a little bit of varsity action and could take on a role in the infield and Cavazos is competing for an outfield spot. “We watched Mikaela Cavazos, Elliott Wininger, and Maci Eckerty grow all through last year, filling in when we needed them and doing the role that we asked of them,” Bonta said. “That year of growth paid off and they are showing big promise this season.” The reason that there are so many new faces in the lineup is that the softball program graduated seven players last season including Brynne Buchanan, Tynley Kluesner, Lola Pantoja, Madison Farris, Bostyn Rowlett, Ashlyn Bonta, and Emri Allen. In total those seniors had 83 of Spring Valley’s 135 hits in 2023 and accounted for 51 of the team’s 100 runs batted in. The Blackhawks will also miss their leadership. As they head into the 2024 season, they’re looking for girls to step up and fill those shoes. “So far, we have had various girls step up into various roles. Each personality brings something different,” Jill Bonta said. “We are all capable of being ‘loud’ but we are working on finding who can be that leader, when things get tough, the one you want to hear from to take the game to a higher level and bring us to where we need to be.” On top of those sophomores there are also freshmen who can play a role, and seniors who are switching roles to help out the team. Allen can contribute as a catcher and Kovas could potentially start as an infielder. “Along with Mikaela, Elliott and Maci, our new freshmen this year, Olivia Allen and Lola Kovas may shock some people,” Jill Bonta said. “They are quick, eager to learn, and they love the game. Karson Dalton and Molly Tucker may be playing some positions that they have not played for us as underclassmen and I expect that they will do well in that role.” Springs Valley’s returning players will be crucial. Last season McNeely played at third base, but she will switch positions to catch for the Blackhawks. Dalton can contribute anywhere on the field. Tucker has been working a lot in the middle infield to contribute there. Hickman will contribute as a pitcher, but she’ll also see some time at first base and should continue to be a force at the plate. Last season she hit .484 with 26 runs batted in and a team-high eight home runs. Those returners will form the core of this team as they chase another conference title. “We keep pushing, we keep working each day to get better. Practicing at a higher pace and intensity, tweaking those little things that maybe need a little tightening up,” Jill Bonta said. ”We also remind the girls that they belong at the top, we have talent, we have worked hard to get the program to where it is and we plan to stay on top.” The Blackhawks will scrimmage Southridge on Thursday and as they do so they hope to find some answers to the questions they have been asking all off-season. “As I have explained to our girls, Thursday is not for us to win, it is for us to see how we are progressing on the skills we need. Have I put together the best field and lineup that will work with the assets that the girls have,” Jill Bonta said. “We play four different innings with four different defenses and lineups. Each pitcher can only pitch to 15 girls. We will see who is earning a spot and who is going to continue to work on their skills and challenge each day to have one of those spots.” Springs Valley Blackhawks Last season: 12-10 (5-1 PLAC) Coach: Jill Bonta (45-57 in 6th season, 7th year at Springs Valley) Players to know: Karson Dalton (Sr.), Lily Hickman (Jr.), Kaylee McNeely (Jr.), Molly Tucker (Sr.) Games to circle: April 9th vs. Northeast Dubois, April 11th at West Washington, April 25th vs. Paoli, April 30th vs. Orleans