MOUNT VERNON — Graduating seven seniors last year, the Mount Vernon High School softball program is building from the ground up this season. The Yellow Jackets, which are coming off a 13-12 season in 2008, will see new starters at several positions this season, including on the mound. That hasn’t intimidated Mount Vernon coach Carisa Frysinger, though.
“We did lose almost our entire starting lineup, and that is tough,” said Frysinger. “This is a rebuilding year per se. Practice started out a little rough, but they keep improving and improving. In our first scrimmage, honestly, we hit way better than I expected them to. They are all working hard. We have some girls that played as freshmen, but didn’t play last year and now they’re juniors. They want to get better and be good so bad, that it is helping the team.”
Even with losing more players than it returns, Mount Vernon does have some experience. It is that experience it will have to rely on this season.
“We have five returning players, and when I was making out our lineup the other day, I started with them,” said Frysinger. “I think the players we have back are very good players. (Karina) Shackle was a First Team all-league selection; she is probably one of the best first baseman in the league. (Victoria Queen) is the best shortstop in the league in my opinion. I’ve never seen an arm like hers. Kylee (Marcum) is one of the best hitters; Kayla (Riley) is one of the best infielders; and Sarah (Palm) is another solid player. Having these five back is great.
“We are going to depend on them a lot for leadership on and off the field,” added Frysinger. “We will look to them for communication and keeping the team together. With our three captains — Sarah Palm, Kayla Riley and Karina Shackle — they are all great leaders. Those were great selections. They are all stepping it up.”
Position-by-position, Frysinger is confident her players are ready. With only three seniors, she must rely on some young players to step forward, however.
“Behind the plate will be Olivia Starmer, a sophomore, or Kayla Riley; at third base will be one of those two,” Frysinger said. “At short will be Queen; second base right now is looking like Sarah Palm or freshman Kate Reynolds; at first base will be Kylee or Karina. In the outfield, Palm could be starting in center. She gets a great jump on the ball, but has never play outfield before until this year. She is a good athlete; Olivia Starmer can also play in the outfield, Natalie Scott, Raven Farley, Jauni Gleason and Lindsay Finnell will also see playing time out there. We’ve got a lot of players for those spots; no one has really stepped up yet to claim them.”
Pitching will be, perhaps, the biggest void to fill. Mount Vernon graduated not one, but two starters from last year in Brittany Rhea and Bailee Marcum. Younger sister Kylee Marcum, who brings a lot of experience on the mound from playing summer ball, will be seeing the bulk of the work.
“Kylee Marcum will be starting for us on the mound,” said Frysinger. “She has performed very well so far. Our backup pitcher is Raven Farley, if we need her. She will be playing in the outfield as well.
“Kylee has a lot of different pitches, and she throws hard. She needs to be a little bit more confident, and once she does that, she will be fine. Her presence on the mound is really what I want her to work on. She has the pitches and the skill; she just needs to learn how to respond when someone jacks one out on her. Brittany Rhea did that very well last year. Raven Farley also lacks confidence, but she has a lot of different pitches. She is a different style of pitcher than Kylee. We’ve also got two really strong pitchers on the jayvee team if I ever need them to pitch — Brittany Rhodes and Molly Casey.”
Frysinger has been pleased with what she has seen from her team so far.
“From Day 1, we have been seeing the ball,” Frysinger said. “They have been swinging at that outside pitch, and we weren’t doing that at this point last year. We are really working on fundamentals, going back to the basics. They are all working hard.”
The Jackets’ schedule changes dramatically from last season with the move to the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division. Mount Vernon opens the season on Tuesday at Upper Arlington, and then plays at River View on Thursday before opening at home on Friday against Olentangy Orange.
“I think it will take us a couple of games to get it figured out,” said Frysinger. “Our league switched again this year so we don’t have Westerville South or all of the other huge teams. I honestly think we should be competing for the title as long as we keep working hard, and come together as a team.
“Since our league games switched to Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we are not in the Lancaster Tournament any more, but we are in the Gahanna Tournament. That’s gets us to play teams from other parts of Ohio. Our schedule, league-wise, is easier than it was last year, but overall it is about the same.”
One thing is for certain when it comes to this year’s Yellow Jacket squad — Frysinger isn’t going to take youth as an excuse. She still expects to see results from her team.
“I expect us to have a fun year and maybe compete for the league, but I want us to build our program,” Frysinger said. “This is a younger team with a lot of juniors and a lot of sophomores. I just want us to come together as a team and have fun.”