The Helias Lady Crusaders are stressing softball is a team game.
And with the versatility of the Lady Crusaders, there will be a lot of moving parts in the lineup and on the field this season.
"There's a lot of opportunities for a lot of people," Helias coach Kelly Fick said as the Lady Crusaders prepared for today's season-opener at Father Tolton. "It makes for a lot of competition and that's the exciting part about this group. We're going to need each and every one of them at some point in the season and if they aren't in the lineup for the first game, there will be 28 other opportunities on the schedule.
"It's going to take everybody for us to be successful."
Fick, who replaces Chris Wyrick as Helias' head coach, is pleased with what he's seen from the Lady Crusaders in the preseason.
"The effort, the focus, the attention to detail have all been there," he said. "They are soaking up what we're trying to teach them."
Fick said he and his staff view the softball field as another classroom. One way that is evident comes when the Lady Crusaders break into small group instruction in practice.
"The teaching aspect is important," Fick said. "Those small groups allow us to teach some things that will help us this season, but if they want to go on and play at the next level, that will help them do that."
The Lady Crusaders have seven seniors among the 24 players on the roster, up three from last fall.
The senior group includes Mallorey Rogers and Ella Meyer. They are varsity veterans, playing key roles in Helias' run to the Class 3 state title in 2019.
"The experience they both have does wonders for our team," Fick said.
Rogers and junior Molly Berkey enter the season as the top two Helias pitchers.
"When they attack hitters and are filling up the strike zone, they are both pretty tough," Fick said. "They are two good ones at the top and they do a great job in leading by example."
Karoline Klebba and Ava Morris, both sophomores, will also see some time in the circle, along with freshman Cambri Van Loo.
Time at catcher and first base will be split between senior Paige Schaffer and sophomore Kendyll Rackers.
"They've brought the bats to the yard and when you do that, you can find a spot in the lineup for them," Fick said. "If you can help us get run-scoring opportunities, you're going to be in the lineup."
Reece Chiles, a senior, will also see time at first base.
Payton Dudenhoeffer, a senior, returns to start at second base.
"She swung the bat well and did a good job defensively last season," Fick said.
There will be movement between the starters at shortstop and third base.
To start the season, Gabrielle Bax will start at shortstop. The senior has missed the last three seasons with knee injuries.
"It's like a big free-agent pickup for us," Fick said. "She's a fantastic athlete."
Meyer, who played shortstop last season, will start at third.
"Both of them are really good, defensively and offensively," Fick said. "They are big, important pieces for us, no matter where they are playing."
Liv Bloomer, a senior, returns as the starter in center field. Berkey will be in right when she doesn't pitch, with Klebba as the main reserve. Morris will start in left after seeing extended time there as a freshman, with junior Kennedy Kupec as her backup.
"One of the strengths of the team is our flexibility," Fick said. "We have a lot of good athletes that will allow us to move people around."
Barry Delaney returns as the pitching coach, with Megan Smith back to coach at first base.
Wyrick is also on the staff and has been working hitters in the batting cage.
"He's getting a lot of small group time with them," Fick said. "He's put in a lot of time with them and we're pleased with the way the hitters have come along."
Helias has games at Fatima and Rolla before playing Sept. 3-4 in the Rock Bridge Invitational, which is new to the schedule.
"That will be a great tournament that will really test us to show where we're at," Fick said.
Helias' first home game is Sept. 8 against Jefferson City.