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2024 Softball Preview: Hillsboro looking for 4th consecutive FAC championship; Highland County teams set to take on seasons ahead 

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Pictured are (top row, l-r) Hillsboro's Camryn Spruell and McClain's Leah Lovett; and (bottom row, l-r) Lynchburg-Clay's Caitlyn Collins, Fairfield's Carly Sanders and Whiteoak's Lily Leston. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha and Jim Jones)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

The following is a preview of all five Highland County softball teams for the 2024 season.

Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC)
Head Coach
: Gary Breeden (3rd season)
2023 Overall Record: 21-3 overall (10-0 FAC)
Last Conference Championship: 2023 (FAC) 

Having a new field and high goals for the 2024 season, the Hillsboro Lady Indians are looking to be even better than they have been the past three seasons, continuing on taking the next step for their program’s success. They’ll be doing that with a brand-new softball field, located at Hillsboro High School.

Head coach Gary Breeden said his team has used the loss in the district finals last season as their motivation, with their “battle cry” being “to take the next step.” 

Seniors for the Lady Indians are Eowyn Brown, Morgan Garman, Alex Magee and Halle Reveal. The HHS junior class consists of Addie Huff, Isabelle Brunck, Myleah Fridley, Camryn Spruell, Reagan Clemons, Rhianna Clemons, Maddie Dearmon, Olivia Swackhamer, Kylee Eidenier and Brylee Thornburgh.

The sophomores for 2024 are Kayla Seeling, Chloe Roberts and Meredith Dietrick. Freshmen this season are Rilynn Swisshelm, Chanel Captain, Madi Karnes, Paisley Zink and Savannah Eidenier.

“I've got seven starters back. It’s exciting, you know, the potential,” Breeden said. “I know a lot of people overuse the term ‘potential,’ but the potential for this team is what they want. You get too excited about it and then don't want to lose sight of the every day. We take care of our business every day, and the potential will be there at the end.

“We’ve got some younger kids that will be playing up. They’re asking the right questions, they're willing to go hard with it. We're in a good spot right now. We'll find out opening day. We've got Portsmouth West and South Webster. That's on the road at Rock Hill. We’ve got Wellston coming in here the first Tuesday of the season, so we've got some really good games right out of the gate to test our fortitude.”

The Hillsboro Lady Indians have dominated the Frontier Athletic Conference the past three seasons, winning the championship in 2021, 2022 and 2023 with a perfect conference record. HHS has won a conference championship in softball a combined 16 times in program history. 

This year, Hillsboro is working to achieve a rare four-peat in the FAC, and under third-year head coach Breeden, the Lady Indians return a solid core of players from the championship season from a year ago to achieve that feat. 

Last season, the Lady Indians finished 21-3 overall, with a 10-0 record in the FAC. The Lady Indians also have won 30 consecutive FAC games and were sectional champions and district runners-up in ’23. 

Spruell — who has verbally committed to Ball State University — was selected first-team All-District for the Division II Southeast Ohio Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association for the Lady Indians, while Reveal and Brown were named to the second team. Spruell was also Division II second-team All-Ohio as a pitcher and infielder.

Spruell earned All-Ohio honors, batted .631 and had a .667 OBP. She also had a slugging percentage of 1.274, as her stats included 53 hits, 11 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBI, 44 runs and 12 walks (five intentional).

Spruell’s numbers in the circle saw her pitch 121.2 innings, and with her 18-3 record, Spruell collected one save, 29 ER and she struck out 235 batters. Spruell’s ERA in ’23 was 1.668, and the opponents’ BA was .137 last season. 

Brown last season batted .395 with 30 hits, eight doubles, 20 RBI and nine steals. Reveal in ’23 had a .392 BA, with 29 hits, four doubles, 13 RBI and nine steals. 

Also last season, Fridley batted .333 with one RBI and four steals. Huff finished with a .325 BA with 26 hits, three doubles, two triples, 27 RBI and nine steals. Brunck in ’23 built a .316 BA, with four doubles and 12 RBI.

HHS will be facing Chillicothe, Miami Trace, Washington, Jackson and McClain twice each in conference play in 2024. 

Non-conference opponents for HHS will be: South Webster and Portsmouth West (quad-DH), Wellston, Williamsburg, Fairfield, Bethel-Tate, Unioto, Zane Trace, Huntington, Clinton-Massie, Eastern, Pickerington North, Portsmouth Notre Dame and games at the Blue Angels Classic against TBA opponents. 

“Our league schedule this year is tough, and it's tough for a reason. It's tough to get us mentally prepared. We always tell the girls win or learn — not win or lose, but win or learn,” Breeden said. “We have to be one-percent better tomorrow than we were today. Seeing the teams like we're going to see — Portsmouth West, South Webster, Wellston, Leesburg Fairfield, Bethel-Tate, Williamsburg, Portsmouth Notre Dame — that’s just going to make our resolve grow.”

Hillsboro opens the 2024 season on the road at the annual Queen of the Hill (at Rock Hill High School) against Portsmouth West High School (11 a.m.) on Saturday, March 23. The Lady Indians will also face South Webster High School (1:30 p.m.) to complete the doubleheader. 

HHS will play their first regular-season home game on Thursday, March 28 vs. Wellston at 5 p.m. 


Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC)
Head Coach
: Molly Stegbauer (1st season)
2023 Overall Record: 6-13 overall (1-9 FAC)
Last Conference Championship: 2012 (SCOL)

The McClain Lady Tigers have a new head coach for the 2024 season, as they are set to take on a new season and new era on the softball field, with MHS graduate Molly Stegbauer being named the new head coach this offseason.

Stegbauer takes over for longtime head coach Ed Bolender, as the new head coach inherits a program that won six games last season (6-13 overall), including one game in the Frontier Athletic Conference (1-9). 

The roster of the Lady Tigers includes seniors Gracie Bowers (P, 1B), Allie Flowers (C), Harley Peabody (3B) and Jacolyn Bolender (RF, 1B).

Juniors for the ’23 season are Kenzi Wise (SS, P), Lindsey Hutchinson (2B) and Sarah Easter (RF, 2B). The sophomores are Olivia Stegbauer (CF, C), Brie Cummins (LF, P) and Leah Lovett (1B). The two freshmen for McClain are Millia Everetts (UTL, SS) and Amaya Ryan (3B).

Last season as a freshman, Lovett was selected to the Southeast Ohio Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division II All-District first team, while Wise, Cummins and Peabody were named honorable mention All-District. 

MHS will be facing Chillicothe, Miami Trace, Washington, Jackson and Hillsboro twice each in conference play in 2024. 

Non-conference games for McClain scheduled for 2024 are Huntington, Adena, Whiteoak, Blanchester, Zane Trace, Eastern, Fairfield and Paint Valley in a tri-DH, Vinton County, Waverly (DH), Paint Valley and Piketon.

McClain opens their 2024 season on Monday, March 25 on the road at Huntington at 5:30 p.m. The first home game this season (at Mitchell Park) will be played Wednesday, March 27 vs. Whiteoak at 5 p.m.  


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: Brad Griffith (2nd season)
2023 Overall Record: 11-9 overall (9-4 SHAC)
Last Conference Championship: 2023 (SHAC Div. I tri-champions)

Coming off an 11-win season, the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs will have Brad Griffith returning for his second season as head coach, as he and his team prepare to battle in Division I of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. 

The Lady Mustangs were 11-9 overall, with a finish of 9-4 in the SHAC last season, finishing in a three-team tie for first place in the “big school” of the conference with the Eastern Lady Warriors and Fairfield Lady Lions (FHS will be in Division II of the SHAC this season). 

Seniors for LCHS this season are Abbi Manning (OF), Ella Barry (3B, 1B), Sarah McKinney (P, IF), Samantha Merry (OF), Rylee Turner (IF, OF), Autumn Griffith (C, 3B) and Brya McClain (CF, 1B).

Juniors are Miranda Smith (OF, IF) and Morgan Baker (IF, P), while the sophomore class includes Sophia Michael (2B, P), Reese Ruble (IF, OF), Avery Blankenship (IF, OF), Caitlyn Collins (SS, C), Kami Collins (OF, IF), Madison Baker (1B, IF) and Noel Barnhill (P, OF). 

In the circle last season, Barnhill led LCHS with a 7-5 record, with a 2.30 ERA in 19 games. In her appearances in the circle, Barnhill collected 134 strikeouts in 103.1 IP. 

Barnhill — who was selected to the Division III Southeast Ohio Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association second team — also led LCHS with a .510 BA in 20 games (51 at-bats). Barnhill in the batter’s box scored three runs, had 26 hits, three doubles, one home run, 12 RBI, three steals and she finished with a .554 on-base percentage. 

As a junior last season, McClain batted .345 last season in 55 at-bats, totaling 16 runs, 19 hits, five doubles, one triple, nine RBI, 13 steals, and she had a .446 OBP. McClain was named Div. III All-District honorable mention last season, 

Caitlyn Collins — as a freshman in ’23 —was next for the the Lady Mustangs at the plate last season with a .460 BA (50 at-bats) where she collected 17 runs, 23 hits, six doubles, two home runs, 11 RBI and 13 steals, and Collins also had a .526 OBP, as she was selected to Div. III All-District honorable mention. 

Smith in ’23 was the fourth LCHS player to have double figures in runs scored with 10, finishing the season with 15 at-bats in 15 games played. McKinney in 42 at-bats had a BA of .286 with an OBP of .333 as she had 12 hits, three runs, one double and four RBI. 

LCHS totaled 151 hits as a team in ’23 and scored 103 runs. Some of the hit leaders for LCHS last season were Barnhill 26, C. Collins 23, McClain 19, K. Collins 15, Griffith 14, McKinney 12 and  Baker 11. 

The team also hit three home runs, with two off the bat of Blankenship and one by Barnhill. LCHS also collected 80 RBI with three players in double figures (Barnhill 12, Griffith 12, Collins 11), and also as a team they had a batting average of .284 with a team OBP of .340, plus a total of 71 steals. 

SHAC opponents for LCHS in 2024 are North Adams (twice), Fairfield, Eastern (twice), Fayetteville, Manchester, West Union (twice), Peebles (twice), Whiteoak and Ripley. 

Non-conference opponents for the Lady Mustangs this season are: East Clinton, Paint Valley, Western Brown, Williamsburg and Zane Trace (tri-DH) and South Webster (DH). 


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: Ellen Binegar (1st season)
2023 Overall Record: 12-11 (9-4 SHAC, Div. I) 
Last Conference Championship: 2023 (tri-SHAC, Div. I)

After winning a tri-Southern Hills Athletic Conference championship in Division I of the conference last season, the Fairfield Lady Lions are returning to Division II of the SHAC in pursuit of another conference title — as they have won seven consecutive SHAC championships — and this year they will have a new head coach.

This season, the FHS head coach will be former player and FHS graduate Ellen Binegar, who takes over for Lesley Hattan, who coached the team for one season. 

Fairfield is coming off a season where they finished 12-11 overall and 9-4 in the SHAC Div. II standings, as they lost in the sectional finals to Westfall, an occurrence that hadn’t happened in 20 seasons. 

Seniors for the Lady Lions are Addison Bales, Katelyn Chambliss, Sydney Hooper, Caitlyn Quickle and Emmi Vance. The junior class is Jobey Hattan and Carly Sanders. 

Sophomores for 2024 include Rilee Quickle, Kaitlyn Eidenier and Kyla Thomas. The freshmen for the Lady Lions are Alyssa Bales, Ally Maynard, Whitlee Morrow, Jorgia Smith, Chloe Spangler, Ava White and Daphne Butts. 

Back to regroup on the softball field, a key member of the team returns to the roster after missing all of the ’23 season with a torn ACL, and that is senior Caitlyn Quickle. As a sophomore in ’22, Quickle had an ERA under 1.00 (0.846) with 141 strikeouts, a 13-4 record and six shutouts in 17 games (99.1 IP), as she earned All-Ohio and All-District honors that season. 

At the plate that same ’22 season, the Valparaiso commit Quickle in 80 at-bats had a .575 BA, with 41 runs, 46 hits, 27 RBI, 17 doubles, two home runs, five walks and five steals in 25 games. She also had a .609 OBP and a .863 SLG. 

Sanders played in 23 games last season and in her 69 at-bats totaled 21 runs, 18 hits, three doubles, one home run and five RBI, all with an OBP of .311 and a .261 BA. 

Hattan — a second-team Div. III All-District selection — returns for her junior season, but last year as a sophomore she was the leading batter for FHS with a .527 BA, with an OBP of .586. Being a second-team Southeast Ohio Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association All-District selection, Hattan at the plate totaled 74 at-bats on 23 games, and in those games she totaled 36 runs, 39 hits, 10 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 22 RBI and 10 steals. 

Chambliss last season for the Lady Lions in 23 games (64 at-bats) finished with a .391 BA with .452 OBP. She also collected eight runs, 25 hits, three doubles, two triples, 12 RBI and two steals. In the circle last season, Chambliss in 18 games (82.2 IP) had an 8-7 record with 75 strikeouts, one shutout and a 4.40 ERA. 

Hooper in ’23 had 76 at-bats in 23 games, where she compiled 24 runs, 27 hits, two doubles, eight RBI, two steals, a .419 OBP and a .355 BA. 

Rilee Quickle — a Div. III honorable mention All-District selection —  in ’23 played in 23 games and with her 79 at-bats totaled 30 runs, 31 hits, seven doubles, one home run, 19 RBI and eight steals, with a .442 OBP and .392 BA. Quickle pitched in 11 games last season, where in 51 IP she totaled 37 strikeouts and had a 5-2 record. 

Vance played in 23 games in ’23, collecting 16 runs, 21 hits, five doubles, two triples, 17 RBI and three steals with a .367 OBP and .360 BA in 23 games. Vance also pitched 11.2 innings (four games), striking out five batters. 

SHAC opponents for FHS in 2024 are North Adams, Lynchburg-Clay, Eastern, Fayetteville (twice), Manchester (twice), West Union, Peebles, Whiteoak (twice) and Ripley (twice).

Non-conference opponents for FHS in 2024 are East Clinton, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Hillsboro, Williamsburg, Miami Trace, Paint Valley, McClain, Northwest, Georgetown, Green, Clinton-Massie, Adena and Unioto. 

Fairfield opens the 2024 season Monday, March 25 at Portsmouth Notre Dame, with a 5 p.m. start time. Their original season opener Saturday, March 23, at home vs. East Clinton, has been canceled due to inclement weather. 


Southern Hills Athletic Conference (SHAC)
Head Coach
: Jeremy Parr (1st season)
2023 Overall Record: 11-9 (9-4 SHAC, Div. I)
Last Conference Championship: 2015 (SHAC, Div. II)

The Whiteoak Lady Wildcats will start the 2024 season coming off a campaign a year ago where they won 11 games, with nine of those wins coming against Southern Hills Athletic Conference competition. 

WHS enters the season with a new head coach, that being Jeremy Parr, who takes over for Missy Payne, who coached the team for one season (2023).

Seniors for WHS are Molly McMullen (3B, IF), Bri Hill (P, OF), Jaylie Parr (SS, OF) and Elena Limon (OF, IF). 

Juniors this season for WHS are Kylee Hamm (C, OF), Elly McMullen (1B, C), Lily Leston (P, OF) and Janelle Clift (RF, 2B). The lone sophomore for WHS in ’24 is Madison Davidson (LF, 3B), and the freshman class consists of Charli Hauke (IF), Addy Hauke (OF) and Kylee Ruark (C, 3B).

Last season, Leston led WHS at the plate with a .381 BA (18 games) as in 63 at-bats she totaled nine runs, 24 hits, six doubles, one triple, 12 RBI, seven steals and she had a .426 OBP. 

Molly McMullen in ’23 batted .370 with a .417 OBP. She also collected 13 runs, 20 hits, two doubles, three triples, one home run, 12 RBI and 15 steals in 16 games (54 at-bats). 

Parr is coming off a season where she in 20 games (70 at-bats) finished with a .257 BA with a .288 OBP. In her at-bats, Parr totaled 18 runs, 18 hits, four doubles, two home runs, six RBI and 26 steals. 

Davidson in ’23 (her freshman season) finished with 62 at-bats in 20 games, and in those games she compiled a BA of .242 with an OBP of .319. Davidson also scored seven runs, 15 hits, four doubles, one triple, six RBI and 11 steals. 

Other totals from last season included Clift (six runs, six hits, one double, four RBI, two steals), Hill (12 runs, eight hits, five doubles, eight RBI, 10 steals), Limon (four runs, eight hits, one double, one triple, seven RBI, five steals), and Elly McMullen (four runs, 13 hits, two doubles, nine RBI, four steals).

In the circle last season, Hill was 7-8 in 19 games pitched, where in 108 IP she struck out 139 batters, with a 4.34 ERA. Leston pitched in six games last season, where in 18.1 IP she had 16 strikeouts. 

Whiteoak’s SHAC opponents for 2024 are North Adams, Lynchburg-Clay, Eastern, Fayetteville (twice), Manchester (twice), West Union, Peebles, Fairfield (twice) and Ripley (twice).

The non-conference schedule for WHS in ’24 includes Paint Valley, McClain, East Clinton, Beaver Eastern (DH), Williamsburg and Felicity (DH). 

Returning to the team who were All-District selections last season are Hill (first-team), Parr (honorable mention) and Molly McMullen (honorable mention). 

WHS opens the ’24 season Monday, March 25 on the road at Paint Valley at 5 p.m. 

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