Seniors on this year’s Lady Longhorn softball team are, from left, Andrea Page, Jade Allen, Lauren Gockley, Sydney Vetter, Stevie Johnson, Whitney Hopp and Emma Ferguson. (Johnson Publications photo)

Softball team first Longhorn squad to compete

When classes resume at Chase County Schools Aug. 23, the Lady Longhorn softball team will already have a pair of games under their belt.
    Add to two more double-headers next Thursday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 26, count six games before the second week of school starts.
    While Tuesday’s opener, a triangular at Southern Valley with Blue Hill, is on the road, the Aug. 24 double-header, also with Southern Valley, and an Aug. 26 double-header with Scottsbluff are both on the home field in Imperial.
    With just a week of practice completed, Coach Denise Smith said Monday they’ve attempted to cover a lot of areas in a short time span, something they face every season.
    “It was all about drills,” Smith said of last week’s morning practices.
    Even with 17 on the roster, half of them are new to the CCS program, she noted, either as freshmen or upperclassmen out for the first time.
    In all, Smith and Asst. Coach Jenna Vogt are working with seven seniors, four sophomores and six freshman on this year’s team. There are no juniors out this season.
    With seven seniors graduating this past spring, Coach Smith said that left just eight returners from last year’s roster of 15. Of that group, three were starters in 2016—Sydney Vetter, Andrea Page and Lauren Gockley.
    That has meant some work on “thinking the game,” Smith said.
    That means, Smith said, the girls need to always be aware of where they are going with the ball on defense and where they should be moving on a hit.
    Some of the most experience the Lady Longhorns have is in its battery—pitcher Sydney Vetter and catcher Andrea Page, both four-year players.
    Vetter, a back-up pitcher last season, has moved up as the team’s starter, Smith said.
    The Lady Longhorns lost two key pitchers to graduation this year, Katelyn Wheeler and Josie Peterson, as well as catcher Brittanie Benge, who saw a lot of varsity action behind the plate.
    About Vetter, Smith said her pitching has improved and expects her height on the mound to be a little intimidating to some opposing batters. Page brings three years of catching experience to that position, and also saw varsity time at third base last year.
    Serving as relief pitchers will be Carissa Hill and Sydnie Allen. Hill’s questionable for next week, Smith said, after tweaking her knee at practice last week.
    Gockley played varsity outfield last season, but will be at shortstop this year, Smith noted. Gockley acquired some shortstop experience last year in JV games.
    The seven seniors will be leaned on for leadership, Smith said, considering the number of young players this year.
    Smith wasn’t ready to name varsity starters yet, but said they’ll be prioritizing positions this week and establishing their batting lineup.
    The coaches will have to work around fair schedules, however. She expected three to four players gone each day this week.
    Smith said the team is enjoying the new ball field dirt put down at the Schroeder Park field at the end of last year’s season. Even with all the rain as of late, the team only had to move indoors the first day of practice Aug. 7.
    She said the school’s new auxiliary gym worked perfectly for their needs when they did have to move indoors.
    Here’s the 2017 team roster by class:
     Seniors—Jade Allen, Emma Ferguson, Lauren Gockley, Whitney Hopp, Stevie Johnson, Andrea Page, Sydney Vetter.
    Juniors—None.
    Sophomores—Sydnie Allen, Emma DeGrasse, Valerie Herbert, Carissa Hill.
    Freshmen—Ashlie Benge, Morayah Cupp, Jordan Hopp, Courtney Odens, Sadie Peterson, Ryley Vrbas.
Schedule changes little
    Except for the site for districts and some time changes, the 2017 schedule is similar to last year, Smith noted.
    Up until districts, Chase County has seven home dates with eight on the road.
    After years competing at Cozad or Gothenburg, Chadron will be the site for the C-6 district tournament Oct. 5-6 to which Chase County will travel.

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