The grass is freshly trimmed and the infield is lined with chalk. These signals mean the dawn of Highland Cavalier softball.
Head Coach Karen Bitter enters her second season in Wise, looking to improve on a 23-32 (6-16) record, which was good for seventh place in the competitive Mid-South Conference.
UVa-Wise will look to fill the leadership void left by Ashlee Washburn, who earned a spot on the All-Mid South Conference second team squad last spring.
Junior outfielder Sarah Wiltshire looks to improve on a record-breaking last season that saw her gain top marks for times at bat, hits and runs scored.
The Cavs will also count on power hitter and clean-up batter Kristina Romualdo to go long yard. The junior led the team last season with eight home runs.
Romaualdo and Wiltshire also earned honors as members of the all Mid-South Conference team.
Seniors Kirsten Velazquez and Natasha Dean will also play pivotal roles respectively in the in-field and outfield starting line-up.
Juniors Megan Dillion, Charity Lawson and Allyssa Zebrowski will also assist in reinforcing Bitter’s line-up card. Sophomore Erica Gilliam will also look to make a mark in the infield.
The Cavaliers will have to overcome a thin pitching staff with injuries to both main starters from a year ago in Chelsey Booth and Kaylla Holdway.
Junior transfer Rachel Hawks will split time with freshman Kellie Waycaster, while sophomore Lannie Johnston and senior Allie Gross will handle relief duties.
During the offseason, Bitter added a litany of freshman talent by pulling in Christina Ziemba, Carrie Williams, Jessi Clark, Rachel Fisher and Mindy Combs.
In their final season in the Mid-South, the Cavaliers are picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll.