BY WILL WILLEMS
It was a historic season for the Western Boone softball team in 2015.
The Stars advanced to the semi-state for the first time in school history before losing 2-1 on a walk-off single to Franklin County . The Stars lost three key seniors off that team, and now are working on putting together a team to make another deep run in the postseason.
“We are kind of on a rebuilding year,” Western Boone head coach Mike Vanderpool said. “We are trying to stay positive and letting the girls have fun. We are going to be using two catchers that haven’t caught before, and tonight they did a good job.”
While the Stars are rebuilding in some aspects, they do return some key players from last year’s semi-state team.
Vanderpool said the experience those players got last spring is important as they look to build this year’s team.
“The returning girls, with the experience they had last year, they are definitely confident heading into this year,” Vanderpool said. “They have to keep the new girls up to our expectations. We still have so holes that we have in the outfield and that is the biggest thing we need to fill right now.”
Vanderpool said the biggest goals for the season is to continue to improve from the first game until the end.
“We want to learn each game and get better each game,” Vanderpool said. “We are young and inexperienced, so we have to take the lessons we learn in games and work on the weaknesses in practice.”
The Stars scrimmaged Zionsville on Thursday, pitting them against another opponent for the first time.
WeBo held their own against the Eagles, giving Vanderpool and the rest of the staff and gauge as they head into the season.
“What I really liked was that we were putting the ball on the ground and were making them make plays,” Vanderpool said. “They were finding gaps and they made some errors, and I think we only had one or two pop-ups all day. We were putting the ball in play a lot today.”
Some of the returning players are going to lead the Stars this year, albeit in different roles.
Taylor Vanderpool, an Illinois State signee, returns after hitting .442 last year and scoring 41 runs. Olivia Hole is back as well after posting an 8-2 record in the circle, but she will be thrust into more of a prominent pitching role from a season ago.
Camryn Savage (.323) and Julia Hole are also back after playing big minutes in the outfield, but will have to split the catching duties this year. Also back is Alayna Raby, who helped solidify the infield last year.
“Taylor and Julia are our two seniors and our captains,” Vanderpool said. “We are going to look for big things from the two of them. Olivia did a great job pitching last year in the postseason, and we are going to need even more from he this year too. Alayna Raby is another girl that we are going to look to to be a leader in the infield and Shelby Medley is someone who we are looking to play an even bigger role this year from last year.”
When looking at the strengths of the team, Vanderpool said he starts with where they are anchored by a lot of their veterans.
“I think our infield is going to be really strong,” Vanderpool said. “I think our pitchers are going to do a good job of hitting their spots and keeping the ball down. We have to keep the balls in the infield.”
Despite going to the semistate, Western Boone finished 6-8 in the conference last year and needed to beat two teams that swept them in Lebanon and Frankfort to advance in the postseason.
Vanderpool said once again he expects the Sagamore Conference to be extremely competitive.
“Lebanon is going to be strong again obviously,” Vanderpool said. “They have Jessica Weaver and their middle infield back and are going to be strong. Tri-West have a couple players back are going to be good. Danville, if they stay healthy is going to be another team to watch.
The Stars open the season with two games against Hoosier Crossroads Conferenceopponents next week.
WeBo will host Noblesville on Tuesday, then host Brownsburg on Thursday.
Vanderpool said there will be some keys for the Stars to start the season off well.
“We have to put the ball in play and hit it hard,” Vanderpool said. “We have to make them make plays and not give them easy outs. “We play two powerhouses the first week in Brownsburg and Noblesville and we just want to go out there and compete. We will learn from our mistakes and go from there.”
WESTERN BOONE SENIOR TAYLOR VANDERPOOL fields a ground ball in a game last year. Vanderpool will lead the Stars this spring.