SAN TAN VALLEY — The million dollar question surrounding the Poston Butte softball program is what will the team look like without Lindsay Lopez?

Throughout her high school career, Lopez was a staple in the Broncos softball program. During her four years, Poston Butte made the state playoffs every single year as she was a key contributor both in the circle and in the batter’s box.

“I think we’re going to do good,” coach Rob Westover said of his team expectations for this year. “I think the first game out was a little nerve-racking for some of the girls, seeing how they were going to handle things without Lindsay being in the circle. It’s the first time in four years that we haven’t had Lo, so it’s a little bit of adjusting. She was a great leader.”

Taking over in the circle this year will be Katelyn Westover, who did see 19 innings last season. She racked up 21 strikeouts and posted a 0.37 ERA.

Coach Westover admitted that the sophomore is stepping into some big shoes that are tough to fill, but believes that she will do a great job.

“I think the girls feel comfortable with Katelyn,” coach Westover said. “Even though she’s not an upperclassman, she leads really well in the circle. I mean she learned from the best, she learned from Lindsay on how to do that stuff. When things get nerve-racking and the team falls down, she gets stronger. She’s really calm, cool and collected the whole time.”

While the right-handed sophomore will see majority of the time in the circle, the Broncos also have a back up option in left-handed Dawn Morris.

Coach Westover added that Morris still needs some more time to develop as a pitcher, but will be a critical part of the defense.

“Dawn brings a whole different part to the game,” he said. “The thing about her is she’s got wheels. So what’s best for the team is probably Dawn majority of the time in right field. Katelyn is probably our strongest pitcher, I’d say 60-40 maybe (of the time split in the circle).”

Another gap left open by a departed graduate, Raevynn Apodaca, in the infield and she also had the teams second highest batting average behind Lopez.

Westover mentioned that newcomer Merissa Hare will eventually take over second base once she recovers from an injury. In the mean time, Brianna Welker, who is making her way back to softball after taking a few years off to focus on volleyball, will be the starter.

“Bri is a utility, she can play anywhere,” Westover said. “Our new sophomore (Hare), she played JV last year and absolutely tore it up and I kind of wanted to bring her up in the season, but I wanted her to keep getting those reps. She pulled a hamstring or quad but she’ll wind up being our second baseman. She’s got a really nice bat too.”

The Broncos lineup this season is loaded with good contact hitters in Alyssa Brizuela, Nataliah Murillo, Kayla Lopez and Kyleigh Potter.

“What do you say about Ky?” Westover said. “She’s got a strong bat. Right now she’s getting over an arm injury but we should have her back in a week, maybe two. She’s itching to get out there and play. She’s the most aggressive kid there is.”

While Potter is not out on the field playing defense she is in the lineup and already blasted a home run on the first pitch she saw to start her junior season.

“I think hitting is going to definitely be better this year,” Westover said. “I think the defense is solid, the girls have really good chemistry going this year. I have high expectations for the girls, but it’s one game at a time though so we’ll see.”

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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