Last season was a breakout year for the Princeton softball team.
The Tigresses won the first regional championship in school history, beating Three Rivers Conference East Division rival Erie-Prophetstown 4-3 in the regional final at Moline.
This year, they are taking aim on adding more numbers to their Prouty Gym banner.
“Winning the first regional in PHS softball history was a great experience we will all remember for a long time. The only acceptable trajectory is ‘up,’” second-year PHS coach Joe Bates said. “We have a team that plays with a great deal of passion, and the competitive spirit is evident in everything we do. Now it’s time to turn it loose playing softball.
“We remain young by most standards, but return a core group with a good amount of varsity and upper level travel ball experience. Our goal is to bring our best every time we step on the field, constantly striving to make our best better every day.”
There has been a curveball thrown at the Tigresses before the first pitch has been thrown.
Sophomore hurler Katie Bates, who went 9-9 with a 2.14 ERA and 133 strikeouts as a freshman, is unable to pitch as she suffered a labral tear in her throwing shoulder from a fall during volleyball.
Joe Bates said his daughter is unlikely to pitch this season.
Pitching duties will be shared by sophomores Hannah Muehlschlegel, Abby Peterson and McKenzie Hecht, who were all regular fixtures in the PHS lineup at other positions last year.
“None have a great deal of experience in the circle, but all have demonstrated that they can get the job done,” Joe Bates said.
PHS returns a strong cast of talent from last year’s regional champions, which finished 15-11 overall, 7-4 in conference (fourth), most of whom were freshmen.
Muehlschlegel, who earned First-Team All-Three Rivers East honors, was the leading hitter for PHS (.415) to go with 12 RBIs, 25 runs, eight doubles, a homer and 12 stolen bases.
Hecht had the big bat in the PHS lineup last year with an-area high seven homers to go with 32 RBIs and seven doubles while batting .342. Peterson had a solid rookie season as well (.345, 11 RBIs, 8 RBIs). Both were named second-team all-conference.
When not in the circle, Hecht and Peterson will play the left side of the infield with Muehlschlegel patrolling the outfield.
Joe Bates said there is good depth behind the plate with junior Lexie Alt (.300, 2 homers, 18 RBIs) and sophomores Taylor Wetsel and Olivia Alter sharing catching duties. Alt will also see time at first with Wetsel and Alter playing utility roles.
Katie Bates (.298), sophomore Libby Boyles and senior Mayah Carlson will see time at second base with Boyles and Carlson also seeing outfield duty.
Freshman Isa Ibarra will join Muehlschlegel and Wetsel to provide PHS with “plus” arms and “plus” speed all around in the outfield, Joe Bates said.
Production is anticipated up and down the lineup, Joe Bates said.
“There is solid batting with power, and speed on the bases will be turned up another notch with the addition of Ibarra,” the PHS coach said.
With just 16 players out this spring, PHS will not field a F/S team once again, rather playing JV extra innings when they can. These players include senior Devin Rossman (OF), sophomores Graycee Funderberg (OF) and Ryann Wempe (OF) and freshmen Emma Cruse-Carter (IF/OF) and Makayla Thompson (P/IF/OF).