KEARNEY — There’s a new look in the dugout for the Kearney High softball team.
On the field, things will probably look much the same.
Coach Barb Wegner, Kearney’s third coach in three years, takes over a team that has nine players with starting experience.
"These girls are coming into the season ready to work hard and focusing on unity," Wegner said.
Kearney went 17-22 last year with a roster that included only four seniors. However, one of those, Megan Reyes, led the team with a .505 batting average and led the team in innings pitched. Another, Jaci Dietz, led the team in home runs.
They leave holes to fill, but Wegner believes the potential to fill those spots is available, starting with seniors Karleigh Scott and Kari Struebing.
Scott, an infielder, batted .475 last year, tying Reyes for second-most hits on the team. Struebing, an outfielder who sat out last season, hit .323 as a sophomore with 11 extra-base hits, including two home runs.
Juniors who started as sophomores, include infielder/outfielder Elizabeth Bean, pitcher/outfielder Haley Becker, pitcher/infielder Marissa Chamberlain, outfielder Abby Heins and first baseman/outfielder Sophie Junker.
Chamberlain led the team in home runs with eight and RBIs with 41. She also went 3-4 as a pitcher and was third on the team in strikeouts.
Becker was second to Reyes in pitching appearances, working 68 innings and striking out 25.
Heins had the most hits on last year’s team, 50, hitting .431 with four triples and six doubles.
Freshmen who started last season included catcher Ella Kugler and catcher/infielder Bella Molina. Molina hit .351 with three homers and 19 RBIs.
Other returning letter winners are junior infielder Aurora Athy and sophomore pitcher/infielder Kelsey Choplin.
Wegner said she thinks the pitchers are looking strong and the catching will be solid.
"We should see strong defense all the way around," she said.
Wegner, while new to the Bearcat program, is no stranger to the coaching box. She coached Grand Island Senior High for six years, leading the Islanders to their first state tournament appearance in 2000.
The Bearcats open the season against Lincoln Pius X at 5 p.m. Thursday at Patriot Park.