Pioneer’s softball program has a proud tradition that includes a Hall of Fame coach, the late Gary “Herk” Hoffman.
The last two years the Panthers have reached the semistate level and have been steadily improving. Next year they hope to field a team that resembles one of Hoffman’s top teams that earned his program an elite status.
The catalyst behind the Panthers’ semistate runs the last two years has been junior pitcher Betsy Bingaman, the 2012 Loganland Softball Player of the Year.
Bingaman went 22-10 with a 1.91 ERA this season. She fanned 240 in 194 1/3 innings pitched, walking just 33. She ranked third in the state in innings pitched and sixth in strikeouts.
She allowed zero earned runs in the Panthers’ five tournaments games this year.
“She spins the ball really well,” said Pioneer coach John Bingaman, Betsy’s father. “She throws a screwball and has a highly effective curveball. She has five pitches and the nice thing is she can throw them all for strikes. She spins the ball and hits her spots, and she’s a real cerebral kid. She’s in the top two or three in her class. She’s going to get looks just because of her academics. Her SATs were off the charts.
“She knows how to pitch. She keeps the hitters off balance.”
John Bingaman said Betsy’s fastball ranges from 55 to 58 mph and added that she can add velocity by adding strength to her 5-foot-3 frame.
Betsy said overall she was pleased with how the season went.
“I feel like we improved this season. I improved and our whole team improved,” she said. “I feel like we improved defensively and with pitching. I didn’t have a good season offensively, but most importantly my team improved around me and were pushing me to be better.”
Bingaman hit .350 with a team-high 31 RBIs in 33 games. She had a .441 on-base percentage and struck out just five times. Of her 35 hits on the season, she had one home run, one triple and seven doubles.
While Bingaman’s numbers in the circle certainly improved from this year to last, her numbers at the plate dropped. As a sophomore she hit .451 with five home runs, four triples, seven doubles and 43 RBIs in the same amount of games.
“At times this year I was in a slump mentally but was able to pull out of it,” she said. “I had a really, really good year at the plate as a sophomore which overshadowed this year.
“Everybody gets in slumps. I had a couple this year. The good thing this year was everyone around me got hits when we needed to.”
The Panthers return seven starters next season, and Betsy’s younger sister, Katie, is also a softball standout who John Bingaman plans to insert in the middle of the lineup as a freshman and also give Betsy some relief on the mound.
Betsy is already looking forward to her senior season.
“Hopefully we get past semistate,” she said.
The following are capsules of the rest of the All-Loganland softball team in alphabetical order by last name.
Bethany Brogdon, Winamac
The sophomore was one of the Warriors’ main pitchers and also played in the middle infield. She hit .444 and had a team-high 35 RBIs, 37 runs scored and 14 extra-base hits (8 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR). She had a .964 fielding percentage and only three errors on the season.
On the mound she went 9-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 71 innings pitched.
“She had a great year both offensively and defensively for us,” Winamac coach Jennifer Belcher said.
Megan Carden, Cass
The Kings’ junior starting catcher hit .313 with a team-high 23 RBIs. Of her 30 hits, 13 went for extra bases. She had seven doubles, five triples and one home run. She also drew a team-high 15 walks.
“Megan has a lot of experience playing softball,” Cass assistant coach Erin Modisett said. “She has played every summer for many years of her life. She’s a great asset to the team. She’s great behind the plate. Her hitting struggled at times this season, but she came around when we needed her to, definitely.”
Bailey Kelley, Logansport
Logansport’s sophomore catcher hit .382 and shared the team lead in RBIs with 22. Of her 29 hits, she had 10 doubles and one home run. She struck out just five times in 76 at-bats.
“She hits with a lot of power,” Logan coach Jim Bacon said. “She handles to pitching staff pretty well. She’s just a good leader from behind the plate, just being a sophomore.”
Abby Koepkey, Winamac
The senior right-hander went 8-6 with a 3.20 ERA for the Warriors this season. She went 4-1 in Midwest Conference play. She had 61 strikeouts in 105 innings pitched.
At the plate she hit .282 with 24 hits and 15 RBIs.
Koepkey kept the Warriors in games all season. Against highly-ranked teams from North Miami and Rochester, Winamac lost by scores of 2-1 and 4-3, respectively.
“She had some of her best pitching performances against our toughest opponents,” Belcher said.
Kourtney Mayhill, Cass
Mayhill moved from the outfield to shortstop her senior season, when she hit .356 with a team-high 22 stolen bases. She added three doubles, three triples, 10 RBIs and 23 runs scored and had a .404 on-base percentage.
“Obviously Kourtney is very, very athletic,” Modisett said. “She started at her normal position in center field before we moved her to shortstop after figuring out we needed her there. She can play anywhere on the field and is a great player, a great leadoff hitter. She’s very, very fast. She was a four-year starter and was very important to our successful seasons.”
Emilee McCoy, Cass
The sophomore second baseman hit a team-high .392 for the Kings this season. She led the team in hits (40), runs scored (28) and was tied with Carden for the team-high in doubles (7). She added 15 stolen bases and 14 RBIs.
McCoy had the game-winning hit to lift Cass past previously undefeated North Miami in the Wabash Sectional championship game.
“As a sophomore she definitely helped us offensively and defensively this year,” Modisett said. “She stepped in at second base and held her own. She’s a young player who stepped up after we needed to fill some holes from last year, and she came up with big hits, especially in the sectional there. I expect to see a lot of good things from her the next few years.”
Bailey McIntire, Logansport
The Berries’ senior leadoff hitter batted .410 and had a .489 on-base percentage. She led the team in runs scored (33), stolen bases (10) and drawing walks (13), and struck out just three times in 78 at-bats. She added two doubles, one triple and nine RBIs.
She patrolled center field for the Berries and was also one of their top pitchers. She went 10-3 with a 1.47 ERA. She pitched a team-high 81 innings.
“She’s just a good leader, a good leadoff hitter,” Bacon said. “She has a positive attitude. She has a lot of speed. She’s a good all-around athlete.”
McIntire is a four-time All-Loganland selection and will play at Huntington University.
Kayte Miller, Pioneer
The sophomore center fielder hit .350 with an on-base percentage of .450. She had six doubles, one triple, three home runs, 20 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 13 stolen bases.
“The ball just explodes off her bat,” John Bingaman said. “She just hits balls that are ropes. She doesn’t get cheated. But we’ve got to get her strikeouts (31) down a little bit.
“We put her in center field when we were struggling, and putting her out there helped solidify our outfield for us. She gives a full-out effort and is not afraid to get dirty.”
Lindsey Miller, Pioneer
The junior catcher and Kayte Miller’s older sister led the Panthers in most of the major offensive categories, including batting average (.369), on-base percentage (.472), hits (38), runs scored (37) and triples (4), and she tied her sister for the lead in home runs (3). She added seven doubles, 23 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
“Two years ago we were looking for a catcher after Kattie Lee moved to Frontier. We had to find a catcher,” John Bingaman said. “She was willing to do whatever we needed her to do. She stepped right in there and did a nice job. It’s nice to have a kid like that behind the plate. She has gotten much better as a catcher. She played second base for the Cass County All-Star team and played a real efficient second base. Offensively, she was really a table setter for us this year.”
McKenzie Mills, Logansport
Mills is a four-time All-Loganland selection in softball, and Logansport’s coach said the shortstop saved her best for last.
“She finally came into her own her senior season,” Bacon said. “She just relaxed. Most seniors press and she just had a good time and had the best year of her four years. Being a senior she was another leader on the team and kept all the girls calm. She just goes out and does her job.”
Mills hit .431 and had a .506 on-base percentage. She tied for the team high with 22 RBIs and led the team in home runs (3) and triples (5). She added 30 runs scored and four doubles. She led the area in on-base plus slugging (1.256).
She was the team’s starting shortstop the last several years.
“Defensively, I don’t know how many double plays we turned but she had a hand in all of the double plays that we had,” Bacon said.
Charlie Nolen, Cass
The junior right-hander went 14-4 with a 1.41 ERA and had three saves for the Kings this season. She fanned 200 and walked just 39 in 129 innings pitched. She averaged 10.9 strikeouts per seven innings.
Nolen pitched the Kings past previously undefeated North Miami, 1-0, in the Wabash Sectional title game.
“This was my first year coaching her and it was her first year of varsity at Cass,” Modisett said of the transfer from Logansport. “Definitely coming into the pitching position we had two strong pitchers which is a great asset to have. She started most of the games and held her own against good teams. I think she has a lot of potential. She works very hard at it and has a goal of playing after high school as well.”
Emily Prentice, Logansport
The freshman had an auspicious debut season for the Berries. She hit a team-high .478 and also led the team in on-base percentage (.506) and doubles (11). She added 16 RBIs, two triples and 24 runs scored.
She was also one of the team’s top pitchers and went 6-2 with one save and a 3.24 ERA. She pitched 54 innings on the season, second most on the team.
“She’s like Bailey [Kelley], she has a lot of power at the plate,” Bacon said. “She’s really quick, too. As far as pitching, she really stepped up being a freshman and did a good job on the mound, too.”
Katie Sullivan, Winamac
The Warriors’ senior leadoff hitter and co-captain hit .381 with an on-base percentage of .495 this season. The left-handed slap-hitter had 35 runs scored, 19 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
She was Winamac’s starting center fielder.
“She’s an excellent outfielder,” Belcher said.
Beau Wicker is the sports editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at (574) 732-5113 or email@example.com.