Last year the Benton softball team was young with just two seniors in the lineup to go with five freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors and its youth showed with an 11-18 record and 3-7 in the SIRR Ohio Division.
The Rangerettes opened the season with three losses, but rebounded to win seven in a row. Then the season went off the rails. Benton won two of its next seven games before going on a nine-game losing streak.
"We couldn't win consistently," said coach Ryan Miller. "We played well to prom time and that's when things fell apart. We then went on a bad streak. Our youth started to show."
Benton snapped the streak with a 6-3 win over Massac County in the final game of the regular season and rode that momentum to beat Ziegler-Royalton 8-2 in the first game of the regionals. But the season ended with a 12-3 loss to Pinckneyville.
"A lot of our young kids had to play last year, but the crazy thing is we're still a young team," Miller said. "With only five of the 17 being juniors and seniors everyone is going to have to grow up and start playing varsity competition pretty quick."
When and if the season begins the roster will be filled with seven freshmen, five sophomores, three juniors and two seniors with the five sophomores and two of the juniors returning starters.
"It will help that we've got Sesley Tedischi coming back," Miller said. "She played her freshman year, but ran track last year. She'll play first base and the outfield."
Senior Zoe Carlton (8-13) takes over behind the plate to replace Courtney Reno. Carlton appeared in 27 games splitting time between catcher and first base. She was second on the team with a .388 batting average and third with 19 RBIs.
Senior Kiley Carter leads the pitching staff. Last year the lefthander made 22 starts with nine complete games and three appearances out of the bullpen. She pitched 123.1 innings and finished with a 5.45 ERA.
"She would have a good game, but we couldn't score enough runs or our defense didn't help her out at times," Miller said. "We had two to three errors a game and you can't win games doing that. That's two of the areas we're going to get better this year."
Emily Melvin (3-4) made 14 appearances out of the bullpen and three starts as a freshman. The sophomore right-hander finished with a 5.16 ERA.
"She stepped in and did a good job as a starter, but especially out of the bullpen," Miller said.
Who replaces shortstop Lacey Jerkins in the field and at the plate is still up in the air. Jerkins was the leader in home runs with three and triples with 11, second in RBIs with 20 and third in hitting with a .381 batting average.
Addisyn Miller played second base last year. The junior led the team in hitting with a .436 batting average, in hits with 41 and in RBI's with 23. Miller also had four starts on the mound and five appearances out of the pen.
Taylor Read at third, Addy Morgan in leftfield and Kortney Wilcox in right were starters as freshmen. Wilcox batted .324 with one homerun and nine RBIs. Read batted .284 with 12 RBIs and Morgan .222 with six RBIs. Reno
Freshman Morgan Reno split time at first base and missed 14 games in the middle of the season with an injury. She was third in RBIs with seven before she got hurt and didn't have a RBI after she returned.
"Morgan Reno was one of our RBI leaders and playing well when she got hurt," Miller said.
Junior Cailyn Fowlkes took over in centerfield in the second game last year and batted .241 with 17 RBIs.
"Addisyn and Taylor will be on the infield somewhere and Cailyn, Addy and Kortney will still be in the outfield somewhere, but where is question," Miller said.
Miller has to find a replacement at shortstop, but with the rest of starters back and seven talented newcomers the Rangerettes should get back on the winning track sooner than later.
"I haven't figured out where everybody is going to play yet, because I have seven freshmen that will have a shot to play," Miller said. "The freshmen are Braelyn Miller, who will be a utility player that can play infield and outfield, Addie Krueger will be a catcher/infielder, Kylea Wilkerson can play both infield and outfield, Emma Blondi is an outfielder, Emma Calcaterra will be in the outfield, Addison Sellers at third base and outfield and Lexi Johnson in the outfield."