Circleville coach Dave Truex has his eye on two different directions: Developing depth to make the Lady Tigers stronger while preparing for the future at the same time.
“We’re starting to develop some depth we haven’t had in a couple of years,” Truex said. “We have a couple of girls who can run, pinch hit and offer a little extra infield help.
“Developing depth will help us this year, but we also have our eye looking to next year when we’ll have to fill some positions.”
First thing first is this season. Circleville, which has been to the Division II state softball Final Four in the last two seasons, is off to a 7-1 start. Rachael Spangler pitched a no-hitter Wednesday as Circleville blanked Amanda-Clearcreek 10-0.
Spangler is caught by her sister, Heather, and the duo have been a foundation for the team since they began their high school careers in 2005.
“When you’ve had them for four years, you pretty much have complete faith in them,” Truex said.
But unlike previous seasons, the Spangler’s won’t have to carry the complete lead as pitcher and catcher. Freshman Courtney Porter is the backup catcher and MacKenna Jennings has already pitched in a few games this season.
“The nice thing is we can prepare them for next year, while also keeping Rachael and Heather fresher,” Truex said. “They don’t have to get to a point where they’re beating themselves up.”
The infield returns three of its four starters with Casse Mogan at shortstop, Jill Truex at second and Grace Winner at first base. Porter and sophomore Stevi Gualtieri have been sharing time at third base.
Power hitter Lindsey Webb returns in right field for Circleville. Freshman Danielle Puckett is playing center and Ashley Maynard and Jennings are sharing time in left field.
“We’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of our people who can bunt and move some runners over,” Truex said. “I think we have more power than what we’ve shown. Lindsey is an excellent long ball hitter and then we have Stevi and Jennings who have power.
“Hopefully they come along. Then, we have five seniors to make a pretty formidable hitting team.”
Kara Knecht comes over from the track-and-field team and is a base-stealing threat.
One area Circleville has had some problems in the first week is fielding, a point the team has always prided itself on.
“Defensively, we’ve had a slow start and had some games with errors we normally don’t make. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where I expect us to be on defense,” Truex said. “We’re not that much different than anyone else. We only had one or two practices on our field before we scrimmaged because of the weather.”
Circleville is scheduled to play in the Lancaster Golden Gales Classic this weekend against Pickerington North, Heath and Whitehall. The Lady Tigers also have a doubleheader scheduled later this month at Licking Valley with Hebron Lakewood.
Before the end of the season, Circleville will also play at LaGrange Keystone.
Add that to a Mid-State League Buckeye Division that Truex calls the toughest over the past three years, and Circleville has a very daunting schedule.
“We try to schedule some of the better caliber teams in the area,” Truex said.