Essex softball

Members of the 2020 Essex softball team pose for a picture during a preseason practice. Front row, from left: Gracee Thompson, Hailee Barrett, Tori Burns, Camryn Chambers, Brooke Burns, Emma Barrett and Kyndra Gray. Back row, from left: Helen Nicholas, Paycee Holmes, Sami York, Elise Dailey, Olivia Baker, Brianne Johnson, Cindy Swain and Alex King.

Photo courtesy Becki Franks

Essex softball fields its own team again with a few returners and a talented group of young athletes hoping to begin the rebuild of the program.

After sending a few athletes to compete on Stanton’s team last summer, a group of eight eighth graders have the Trojanettes ready to compete in an abbreviated 2020 season.

Kim Burns is the new Essex head coach. She has coached a majority of the eighth grade group for several years and now follows them onto the high school field.

There are a few athletes with varsity experience Burns will be counting on to lead this year, starting with juniors Sami York and Elise Dailey. York hit .345 for Stanton last season and was tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs, fueled by seven extra-base hits. Burns said York is very knowledgeable and will be a big bat in the middle of the lineup.

Dailey has pitched every year at the varsity level, including throwing nearly every inning for Essex two years ago. She accumulated 55 2/3 innings in the circle for Stanton last season with 27 strikeouts and a 4.90 ERA. She added eight hits offensively.

Brianne Johnson and Olivia Baker return as freshmen after seeing limited action for the Viqueens last season. Burns said Baker is aggressive and can play about anywhere while Johnson looks to hold down first base. Burns said both have been quite coachable in the early stages of the season.

Camryn Chambers is the team’s only senior and is out for softball for the first time since her eighth grade year. Junior Helen Nicholas also returns after a year away from the sport. She hit .200 in 15 games as a freshman. Gracee Thompson joins the team as a freshman and could see some time at catcher.

The eighth-grade group looks strong and Burns expects at least a few to challenge for prominent spots in the lineup. Tori Burns and Brooke Burns have pitching experience and can move around the field defensively. Kyndra Gray is another good athlete, who could see time behind the plate. Alex King and Cindy Swain also bring strong qualities to the group.

Burns said three Hamburg transfers also join the program in Hailee Barrett, Emma Barrett and Paycee Holmes.

“Our players are quick, competitive and have a great knowledge of the game,” said Burns, “and we will rebuild the softball program. We have four pitchers and five catchers competing and those numbers are exciting.”

Burns is concerned about putting the puzzle together. She has a few athletes who can play multiple positions. Her key is to find the right spot for each athlete, but she only has a few opportunities to see them on the field.

The Trojanettes only have five Corner Conference games, the conference tournament and a non-conference game with Shenandoah on the regular season schedule.

A trip to Stanton opens the season, Tuesday, June 16. Fremont-Mills is the opponent for the home opener June 19. Sidney, Griswold and Shenandoah also make the trip to Essex during the regular season.

Essex also hosts the finals of the Corner Conference Tournament, Friday, June 26.

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