By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
The Lady Bulldawgs return a core of all-district players who will have big shoes to fill this season as Copperas Cove aims to make a run for a District 12-5A title. Here's a look at what area teams bring to the diamond this season.
Last season: 15-18, 10-4
Key loss: SP Jenna Roach
Key players: Allison Boston (Sr.), Amber Peters (Sr.), Alex Wilson (So.)
Outlook: A slow start and an injury to hard-hitting shortstop Peters derailed Belton's high hopes of a playoff run last year.
However, this season expectations are even higher as Belton features a lineup with seven seniors, including the return of Peters from shoulder surgery.
Belton also may have the best pitching in 12-5A with Boston and Wilson. Wilson throws as hard as 65 mph and Boston was lights-out in district play in 2010 and finished the season 9-7 with 1.04 ERA.
Last season: 16-16, 5-9
Key loss: SS Shabanese Brown
Key players: Justine Hartwell (Sr.), Brianna Sinclair (So.)
Outlook: The Lady Bulldawgs return a core of all-district players, including Sinclair, Hartwell, Katelynn Stephens and Ashley Hartwell, who could see time at pitcher, shortstop and catcher.
But what Cove lost is just as big - Shabanese Brown was arguably the area's top player, while Savannah Seybold is at Texas Lutheran. The team is young with just two seniors (Justine Hartwell and Mari Chavez) and two juniors.
Last season: 4-22, 1-13
Key losses: C Amanda Cruddas, OF Halley Ingram
Key players: Alyssa Castro (Jr.), Rayven Jones (Jr.)
Outlook: Ellison recorded its first 12-5A win in its second district game, after which the Lady Eagles collapsed, losing their final 12 games to finish at the bottom of the standings.
But enter first-year coach Rebecca Daley, who brings an upbeat and youthful attitude to a team brimming with potential thanks to juniors Castro and Jones.
Despite a 1-9 record on the mound, Castro led the Lady Eagles with a 4.86 ERA while OF Jones paced them on the base paths with seven stolen bases.
Last season: 5-23, 2-12
Key loss: C Veronica Espinosa
Key players: Christina Hagey (Sr.), Ashlyn Osborne (Jr.)
Outlook: After going 33 games between district victories, the Lady Knights notched two last season to dig themselves out of the district cellar. But now, with six seniors, including pitcher/corner infielder Hagey - who's signed with McLennan Community College - there are high hopes for a potential playoff run.
Osborne will again try and pace the offense from the lead-off position after hitting .370 last season with a team-high 30 hits and 18 runs.
Last season: 10-19, 4-10
Key loss: C Ashley Shannon
Key players: Katie Quinn (Sr.), Karlye Stapleton (Sr.)
Outlook: This group of seniors were sophomore standouts when the Lady Grey Wolves made their first playoff appearance in 2009. They need to replace Ashley Shannon's (McLennan Community College) slugging and improved pitching, but, led by Quinn, who signed with Clarendon College, the Lady Grey Wolves' talent could make Shoemaker a dark horse in 12-5A.