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Panthers ready to pounce on softball diamond

Returning letter winners for the Ellsworth High School softball team are (First row, from left) Mariah Diercks, Stacie Peterson, Morgan Christopherson, Halle Hatch, Taylor Nelson; (Second row) Katie Deiss, Kayla Christopherson, Allison Freier, Becca Chollett and Kenzie Diercks. -- Photo by Sean Scallon

A season full of promise has begun promisingly for the Ellsworth High School softball team

The Panthers are 3-0 overall and in the Middle Border Conference and they haven't been so much as scored upon yet. Junior pitcher Halle Hatch has been dominant at the plate.

It's the beginning that head coach Ryan Casper envisioned for his club stocked with returning letter winners from a team which finished with a 10-4 mark in the MBC in 2010.

"It's certainly nice to be returning the bulk of our team from last year," Casper said. "Our young players are a season older and they've moved forward when it comes to their skills. And as a team, the coaching staff can't ask for a better group when it comes to their personalities and attitudes."

Hatch was an All-MBC pitcher last season with returning letter winners, seniors Kayla Christopherson and Becca Chollett also making the all-league team. Sophomore Kenzie Diercks is back and she received honorable mention.

Also back is senior Allison Freier, juniors Mariah Diercks and Taylor Nelson and sophomores Katie Deiss, Stacie Peterson and Morgan Christopherson. The only senior to graduate from last season was Estelle Jensen.

Hatch, Freier and McKenzie Diercks will handle the pitching duties with Freier also playing the outfield. Chollett is back at catcher and Kayla Christopherson is back at shortstop. Taking over for Jensen at first base will be Morgan Christopherson and Deiss with Christopherson playing the outfield as well. Nelson is slated for centerfield and Mariah Diercks for third with McKenzie Diercks and Stacie Peterson at second. Nearly all of the players will be able to handle at least two positions plus other duties such as pinch running, hitting or the outfield.

"Defensively we're a at point now with the players experience and skill we can feel confident our pitchers will be backed up well," Casper said. "And that's on top of Halle being stronger and more velocity on the ball but also throwing with more control."

Thus, offense takes over as Ellsworth's main concern as Casper said Panthers must improve their hitting, especially in clutch situations, to be championship caliber ballclub. Top returning hitters include Hatch, Kayla Christopherson and Chollett.

"Consistency is what we're looking for," Casper said. "We struggled last season (EHS started the spring 1-5) until we were able to get hits, get on base and get runs in and even then we would have games when our bats just weren't there. We need to be doing all these things right away and keep doing them all season."

Ellsworth played its way into the league title picture in late April until an 11-2 loss to Prescott set them back. Ellsworth will play the defending league champs on April 28 in Prescott.

"Prescott is at the top right now and Baldwin is going to be good as well," Casper said. "If we play our game we can play with any team and if the breaks go our way we can beat those teams to reach our goals for this season."