The Pickerington High School North softball team's lack of a proven catcher has prompted several position changes.

The Pickerington High School North softball team's lack of a proven catcher has prompted several position changes.

Junior Taylor Knore, a three-year starter who hit .309 last season, has been moved behind the plate to help fill the most noticeable hole in the lineup. That forced second-year coach Lindsay Bayless to move senior Linda Laeufer from second base to first to take Knore's former spot while junior Ali Murphy slides over from shortstop to replace Laeufer.

"It kind of created a domino effect," said Bayless, whose team opened with a 15-4 win over Teays Valley on March 28. "Taylor is learning on the go, but she's got a strong arm and has picked things up pretty quickly. The other girls just moved over and fit right in. There's a little bit of a learning curve, sure, but I don't think it's going to affect us much."

Besides, Bayless said she already had been having discussions with Laeufer about playing first base. Laeufer, a four-year starter, has signed to play at Cornell University, whose coaches had asked during the recruiting process whether she could play the position.

Laeufer, who at 5-foot-8 fits the mold of a first baseman, led the Panthers in batting average (.450) and RBI (20) a year ago as they finished 14-12 overall with a 7-5 loss to Olentangy Liberty in a Division I first-round tournament game.

North returns another three-year starter in senior center fielder Kelsey Swain. Junior Megan Seeds is back in right field, and senior Allyson Baldwin returns at third base.

"We brought back a lot of girls," said Bayless, whose team went 7-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division last season to place fifth behind Grove City (13-0), Gahanna (12-2), Pickerington Central (10-4) and Groveport (7-6) and ahead of Lancaster (4-10), Newark (2-12) and Reynoldsburg (0-14). "That experience is really going to benefit us. We've looked pretty good in our scrimmages."

Senior Rachel Corrigan is expected to handle a majority of the pitching after classmate Molly Doyle opted not to return. They split time last season, with Corrigan appearing in 21 games while posting a 2.54 ERA with 65 strikeouts. Junior Lacey Eigel, a varsity newcomer, and freshman shortstop Hannah Murphy will see time in the circle as well.

"We have a lot of different pitching styles," Bayless said. "Lacey is a location pitcher, Corrigan is a junk-baller and Murphy is a speed pitcher. We'll be able to give teams a different look if we need to."

The other senior is Rachel Hack, who batted .293 a year ago. Freshman Hannah Lucas is expected to be the starting left fielder. Others to look for include sophomores Courtney Kelly and Taylor Hollis. Kelly is the backup catcher.

"Getting squared away at catcher was a big step," Bayless said. "It really helps that we've got an experienced pitcher, too."

Central, which opened with an 8-6 win over Jonathan Alder on March 28, has work to do after the graduation of several key players.

They included shortstop Erin Lashley, an Ohio University recruit who scored 30 runs and stole 13 bases, and pitcher Kelsey Long, an Otterbein recruit who posted a 19-7 record. The Tigers finished 21-9 overall after a 2-1 loss in eight innings to Dresden Tri-Valley in a Division I district final.

The right side of the infield and center fielder Jenn Hewitt, who led the team with a .392 batting average, also departed.

"I think this next group coming along learned a lot from them, though," eighth-year coach Dan Drees said. "I guess we'll see."

Junior first baseman Lindsey Inkrott and senior Amanda Jones are expected to be the pitchers. Junior Hannah Dittoe returns at catcher after batting .319 while leading the team with 21 RBI. She also had seven doubles, two triples and a home run.

Inkrott logged some innings in the circle last season but will have a bigger role now.

"She's basically a drop-ball pitcher, but she'll throw the fastball and an occasional change-up," Drees said. "Amanda can really spot her fastball and she's got a real nice change. We'll be able to keep hitters off balance."

Senior Katy Bender, the likely leadoff batter, returns to the outfield but has moved from left to center. Classmate Kaylee Shoff, who looks promising at the plate, moves in from the outfield to play shortstop.

The outfield also has junior Lisa Cordova in left and junior Kris Hamler in right. The other seniors are Courtney Harry and Casey Ortega, both of whom played last season.

The newcomers include sophomore Molly Riggs and freshmen Sadie Cunningham and Allie Luther, who Drees said is showing potential as a run producer.

"We have a good number of kids back; they just didn't get a lot of time last year playing behind some pretty good seniors," Drees said. "Now it's their time to shine."