SPRING CREEK – Entering the 2018 softball season, Spring Creek coach Chad Nelms said his team is powerful and athletic.
“We have a little more power offensively, and this is the most athletic team that I have coached,” Nelms said.
A large reason for the added pop with the bats is provided by senior Paige Nelms, who ascended to new heights last year as a junior.
In 2017, she led the Lady Spartans in nearly every offensive category with a .533 batting average (fifth in the league), a .607 on-base percentage and .866 slugging percentage (both fourth in the league), 40 hits, 26 runs scored, 10 doubles and three triples.
Her speed on the bases served as a major weapon, stealing 23 bags (fourth in the league) – leading second place on the team by eight swipes.
She ranked second on the roster with three home runs and fourth with 19 runs batted in – selected to the Division 3A North 2nd-Team.
After playing in the infield to help the team last season, she will return to her natural position in the outfield – possessing a rocket arm.
Junior Josie Corona will return for the Lady Spartans at third base, finishing third on the team last year with a .378 batting average.
She ranked second on the roster with 31 hits and 20 RBIs, her seven doubles closing in third for the Lady Spartans.
Corona also ranked third on the team last season with six stolen bases.
Another player coach Nelms expects lots of power from is junior Lexi Voegele, who raked a deep ball last season against the Lady Indians in Elko.
She also added five doubles and finished second on Spring Creek’s team with two triples.
While Voegele showed power as a sophomore, coach Nelms sees big things coming from a freshman – Jaycee Freyensee.
“Lexi has a lot of pop, but Jaycee has a big bat and should really help the middle of our lineup,” he said. “Our other returners should be able to hit well for contact.”
While the Lady Spartans should provide the ability to rip drives, Spring Creek will be without the power hitting of graduated Ashley Bodin.
Bodin led Spring Creek with four home runs last season, finishing second to Paige Nelms with a .473 batting average.
Half of Bodin’s 26 hits went for extra bases, finishing second on the team with nine doubles.
Bodin led the team with 22 RBIs, but her offensive production is not the only area the Lady Spartans will miss her efforts.
On the mound, she led Spring Creek with three wins, leading the team with 74 punchouts – tossing a team-high 58-1/3 innings.
Spring Creek will also hit the diamond this season without the pitching services of Kaily Webb, who tied for second on the team as a sophomore with two wins but is not playing softball this year.
Webb also finished second on the roster with 31 Ks in 49-1/3 frames.
She hit .264 with four doubles last season.
To replace his departed pitching staff, coach Nelms will rely on the hurling of three sophomores.
“Shawnee Walters-Haas, Amie Donham and Nicole Southern will be our pitchers. They’re young but they’re coming along nicely,” he said.
As a freshman, Walters-Haas led Spring Creek with a 4.13 ERA – tying for second on the team with two wins from the bump.
She struck out 14 batters in 20-1/3 innings and hit .222 with a double in limited appearances at the plate.
Coach Nelms said Spring Creek is set at first base, third base and right field.
With Corona fielding grounders at third, the Lady Spartans will bank on a pair of returning juniors.
RaeAnn Chavez led the Lady Spartans with 107 putouts and a fielding percentage of .982 last year at first base, Ally Thompson playing once again for Spring Creek in right field.
“Our outfield looks really good, having Paige back in center helps a lot,” Nelms said.
Despite Voegele playing at catcher last season, coach Nelms said the Lady Spartans are very competitive at the position, also hosting plenty of competition for the starting role at second base.
“This is the most athletic team I have had, there is a lot of speed and quickness. Just watching them in practice, they get to the ball quicker than other players I have had come through the program,” said coach Nelms. “Their athleticism allows them to compensate for the things they don’t do as well. We can work on the fundamentals, but you can’t teach someone how to be athletic.”
Coach Nelms hopes an increased level of athletic ability across his roster, combined with a powerful middle of the lineup, will translate to victories as the Lady Spartans attempt to get back to the postseason after failing to qualify for the regional tournament in 2017.
Spring Creek will open its season at 6 p.m. Thursday against Division 1A state champion Pahranagat Valley at the Virgin Valley Tournament in Mesquite.