This was a season about difficult times. And youth.
A young Cathedral High School softball team overcame significant adversity in 2023. The result was a memorable season that set the stage for a strong future.
And as Tony Matthews saw it, that made this a good season. Very good.
“We played some good ball this season,” the Irish’s longtime head softball coach said.
The Irish, an annual contender in recent seasons, finished the 2023 season with another strong record – and another solid postseason performance. They finished the season 18-10, advancing to the Class 4, Section 10 championship game.
The Irish lost there to Ben Davis 9-3, after a 20-0 victory over North Central in the sectional semifinal.
A season highlight came when the Irish won the City Championship, beating Scecina 16-2 to advance to the championship game, where they beat Heritage Christian, 3-1.
The Irish in 2023 turned in a strong season with a strong group of underclassmen, doing so despite the season-long loss of junior pitcher Jade Slone – who went 20-10 as a sophomore and who was expected to be a team leader before a shoulder injury limited her 2023 season.
“She was our ace last year and was hoping for big things this year,” Matthews said.
Freshman Sidney Feczko replaced Slone, steadily improving and finishing 14-7. Sophomore Maddie Liter, a first baseman, also filled in as a pitcher at times after Slone’s injury.
“She settled in and pitched some pretty good ball,” Matthews said of Feczko. “We’re hoping Jade will be back next year. She'll be a senior and then we'll do a lot of damage next year. We get Jade back, but Sidney getting a year underneath her belt, she's going to do nothing but get stronger and stronger for us, too.”
The Irish in 2023 were led by a strong group of sophomores and juniors, a group that keyed the offense and formed a potent group at the top of the lineup. That group included:
*Junior Mary Hughes, centerfield: .522 average, 13 runs batted in.
*Junior Aubrie Wright, catcher: .302 average, 14 runs batted in, three home runs.
*Sophomore Angie Valentine, third base: .500 average, 43 runs batted in, seven home runs.
*Sophomore Anna Moore, shortstop: .487 average, 19 runs batted in, two home runs.
*Sophomore Ashley Sylvia, right field: .362 average, 13 runs batted in.
*Sophomore Maddie Liter, first base/pitcher: .409 average, 30 runs batted in, four home runs.
Hughes led off and led the team in stolen bases, with Moore hitting consistently while batting second at shortstop and playing consistent defense. Valentine hit third for a team that played solid defense much of the season played well as a team offensively.
“When we were good, we put the ball in play, got base runners on and our hitters drove them home,” Matthews said. “We were able to put a lot of runs on the board.”
Junior Alyssa Fry, a second baseman who transferred from Pendleton, became eligible in May. She batted .387 with nine RBI and and hit a home run in her first game.
Emmerie Stump, a left fielder and the lone senior among the Irish’s front-line players, hit .356 with 13 RBI. Senior second baseman Emma Blondi, who sustained a thumb injury in 2022, and senior first baseman Addison Land were strong leaders on a young team.
“The senior leadership was good with them,” Matthews said. “They stayed positive with it all.”
The result was a strong team that improved as the season continued. The two victories in the City Tournament were part of a nine-game winning streak in early May that included victories over competitive teams such as Westfield and McCutcheon.
Those were the sorts of performances that led to a strong overall season, one that should prove a solid foundation for a young team that set the tone for a bright future.
“This team definitely got along,” Matthews said. “The chemistry of this team is really good. We did a lot of bonding things and we really like this team. This is a good group, a good team of girls here.”