By JIM ELLIOTT
WELLSBURG - Longtime starting pitcher Leanne Mazzella graduated last spring, leaving the Bruins and third-year coach Mike Wagner with a fairly substantial hole at the game's most pivotal position.
The Bruins went 12-13 last season that included eliminating favored Wheeling Park in the sectional with Mazzella and third baseman Clarissa Kowalczyk leading the way.
They've moved on, along with Shawn Stewart, Lauren Lehman, Lindsay Kurcina, and Emily Richmond, leaving the competition fairly wide open as the Bruins began spring practices.
Catcher Shannon Reardon, centerfielder Katie O'Connell, rightfielder Jessica Kennedy and first baseman Courtney Rine are all back, giving Wagner a solid core with which to work.
Reardon hit .333 with 24 hits in 72 at-bats last season.
In the circle will be sophomores Kaylee Kuchinski and Kristen Reardon, along with senior Kelsey Welsh, all looking to replace the 104 strikeouts Mazzella rang up last season.
Beyond that, ''many less experienced players are competing for several open positions which has created an environment of healthy competition,'' Wagner said. ''We expect that it will take several games to find the combination that works best for our program.''
The seniors are O'Connell, Kennedy, Reardon, Rine, Welsh and outfielder Jessica Fowler, for the Bruins, who have six scheduled doubleheaders on the 2012 card.
The junior class is made up of third basemen Sam Mazzone and Sam Cusick, infielder Marena Cline, and outfielders Haley Bowman and Kristen Ewing.
The sophomores are Kuchinski, Kristen Reardon, outfielder Michaela Hinerman and first baseman Cassi Camilletti.
''We have many talented softball teams on our schedule and we look forward to the challenge,'' Wagner said.
Assistant softball coaches at Brooke are Glen Kocher, John Reardon, Shauna Kolosky, and Stephanie Silver.
BROOKE 2012 SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
Mar. 24: at R.C. Byrd (2)Noon
Mar. 27: John Marshall5 p.m.
Mar. 28: at Oak Glen5 p.m.
Mar. 29: at University4:30 p.m.
Mar. 30: at Edison5 p.m.
Mar. 31: at Whg. Central (2) Noon
Apr. 2: Wheeling Park 5 p.m.
Apr. 4: at Weir5 p.m.
Apr. 5: Magnolia (2)Noon
Apr. 9: at John Marshall5 p.m.
Apr. 10: University4:30 p.m.
Apr. 12: Morgantown5 p.m.
Apr. 14: Martins Ferry (2)Noon
Apr. 16: Pkb. South (2)4:30 p.m.
Apr. 18: Steubenville5 p.m.
Apr. 21: Indian CreekNoon
Apr. 25: at Steubenville5 p.m.
Apr. 27: East Liverpool (2)4:30 p.m.
Apr. 24-28: OVACsTBA
Apr. 28: Super SaturdayTBA
Apr. 30-May 5: Sectionals at JMTBA