Tigers softball hungry for more success

Members of the 2017 Dupo High School softball team are, from left, front row, Cameron Foster, Reagan Carner, Sarah Ostertag, Skylure Barlow, Kayla Prater, Micayla Koonce, Sheridan Pipkens and Holly Wilson; and back row: head coach Tom Norman, MyKenzie Kloess, Courtney Stanek, Stormy Sellers, Kaylee Zishka, Megan Brown, Taylor Esmon, Kassidee Keys, Briana Leesmann, Megan Touchette and assistant coach Mitchell. (Corey Saathoff photo)

A new head coach is ready to follow up on the Dupo High School softball team’s historic 21-6 season that ended with the program’s first-ever trip to the state title game.

This is Tom Norman’s first season as head coach of the Tigers; Greg Pennock retired after winning 118 games in seven years at the helm.

To replicate this success, a new group of Tigers will need to step up as Caitlyn Brizzi, Rachael Donald, Savannah Maldonado, Amber Mobbs, Jessica Stansch and Alyssa Strubberg all graduated last spring.

Among the returning seniors are pitcher Megan Brown, third baseman Taylor Esmon, shortstop Skylure Barlow and outfielder Stormy Sellers. Norman expects these returners to lead the team this season.

“As returning seniors, they have been through it before, so I expect them to be leaders for the younger class,” Norman said.

Brown pitched in 13 games last season, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings. She will be asked to step in for Stansch, a workhorse who threw more than 150 innings last spring with a 2.34 ERA before graduating.

Brown, who will play at Southern Illinois University Carbondale upon her graduation, also contributed offensively, leading last year’s team in home runs with five.

Esmon returns to play the hot corner; she sported a .460 batting average last season while driving in 24 runs and scoring 26 more.

Barlow hit three home runs last season and drove in 22 runs, while Sellers chipped in with 12 RBIs.

Norman will be calling upon a group of sophomores to step in to the starting spots vacated by the graduates. Cameron Foster (.327, 11 RBIs in 2016) headlines a group that also includes Kassidee Keys, Reagan Carner and Mykenzie Kloess.

“They’re going to have a tall order,” Norman said. “They have big shoes to fill.”

Even with six seniors gone from last year’s team, Norman has high goals for this season. He wants to make it back to the state tournament and be competitive in every game. He also wants to win a conference title.

The Tigers hope to achieve these goals by playing exemplary defense, especially in the infield. Norman will look for the sophomores to grow offensively.

Norman expects Steeleville, Gillespie, Lebanon and Columbia to be his team’s biggest rivals this season.

“Columbia always puts together a good team,” Norman said.

The Tigers opened with a 12-2 win at home Thursday against Bunker Hill, and are off to a 4-1 start to the season.

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