Lady Spartans return to softball diamond, look to build off 2017 success

FELTON – Following a quarterfinal exit in the 2017 DIAA softball state tournament, the Lake Forest High softball program is getting back to work heading into the 2018 season.

At 16-2, the Lady Spartans won the Henlopen Conference and grabbed the No. 2 seed in the state tournament before a 7-4 loss to Indian River in the state quarterfinal in May of last year.

Losing just three seniors from that Henlopen Conference championship team, the 2018 squad is simply looking to build off its 2017 success heading into the team’s Friday, March 23 opener against North Caroline High (MD).

Kaitlyn Stahre, entering her senior season, tosses a pitch against Smyrna last season (The Chronicle/Marc Clery).

“We’re coming off a great season from last year,” head coach Ashlie Tatman said. “We know that we had a competitive team last year, but we also have a very competitive team this year. It’s just a different dynamic.”

Those three seniors who departed via graduation last spring – catcher Faith Garey, centerfielder Mya Maddox and pitcher/first baseman Kerrigan Simpson – are each playing softball at the next level, leaving behind key starting roles on Lake Forest’s squad.

Luckily for Lake, a strong senior class and a talented group of incoming freshmen will help fill in those spots in what the team hopes is a seamless transition and a return to the state tournament.

Starting pitcher Kaitlyn Stahre, first baseman Kayla Thompson, third baseman Brooke Glanden and shortstop Brittany Baker make up the senior group and will provide leadership for the younger girls on the 2018 roster.

“My seniors this year, they were freshmen when I first started coaching, so they are a sentimental group to me,” coach Tatman said. “This is going to be a sentimental year for them and for the coaching staff. I think that these senior girls specifically, going into this year, are looking to be a top competitor.

“I really think that these senior girls this year will be able to focus on leadership, communication, team work and really strive to get a winning record and move this team collaboratively into a state tournament setting,” she continued. “They’ve been working together for four years, they know the drill, they know what it’s all about and what the younger generation is going to experience.”

Couple the group of seniors with juniors Grace Aguilar and Abigail Collins, and more than half of the team’s 11-player varsity roster is made up of upperclassmen with state tournament experience.

The incoming freshmen group named to the varsity roster heading into the season-opener: Alexis Stahre, Jessica Reed, Rachel Brzezicki and Taylor Collazo.

“It’s still early and we just divided the teams into J.V. and varsity and coming into this season I was a little nervous about what we’d have coming up to the varsity level,” coach Tatman explained. “From what I’ve seen so far, I’m really excited for the freshmen to be a part of this team and for the girls to really show these freshmen what we’re all about. The freshmen on the varsity team are coachable and willing to be a part of our program.”

Kayla Thompson rounds third base as she high-fives head coach Ashlie Tatman after hitting a home run last season (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

Despite seeing the freshmen for just a couple of weeks so far, coach Tatman is already excited to spend the next four years coaching them.

“These girls work together, they communicate well, and I’ve seen some leadership qualities already in some of these freshmen and that makes me excited for what the future may hold for them,” she said.

Kayley Joiner, the roster’s lone sophomore, primarily saw playing time as an outfielder last year. This year, however, Joiner will step in and see some time in the pitcher’s circle behind senior Kaitlyn Stahre.

While the soggy weather in early March hasn’t prevented the Lady Spartans from putting in some work in the first 12 days of spring sports practices, it certainly has limited the team’s time on the softball diamond.

That changed this weekend as they made their way up to Caesar Rodney High for a four-team scrimmage play day with CR, William Penn and Middletown.

This Thursday, March 15, Lake will follow it up with one more road scrimmage against North Caroline High (MD) at 4 p.m. before opening the regular season against that same North Caroline squad Friday, March 23 at 4 p.m.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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