St. Thomas Aquinas Academy/Lena shortstop Vanessa Hanrahan fields a grounder during practice Monday in the STAA gym. <B>EagleHerald/Jody Korch
St. Thomas Aquinas Academy/Lena shortstop Vanessa Hanrahan fields a grounder during practice Monday in the STAA gym. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - As long as Kristen Sorensen forces batters to strike out or hit balls in the infield, the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy/Lena Cavalettes should be OK. If balls are hit into the outfield? Hard to tell.

The Cavalettes return an experienced pitcher and infield experience. The outfield is a work in progress, and because practices have been confined to the gym, progress has been slow.

STAA/Lena returns a solid nucleus from last year's team which won five games.

"I'm very optimistic," Cavalette coach Shirley Martin said. "I think we can be competitive. We're so young again, but that's a good thing. They can all grow together."

Sorensen is a four-year varsity starter.

"Kristen seems stronger this year than she has been," Martin said. "She's had to carry us. She's determined to do it, she wants to do it."

The other senior is shortstop Vanessa Hanrahan, another returning starter.

"She's so quick and she throws a rocket," Martin said. "I feel very comfortable with her there."

Among the juniors are Melissa Bushmaker, a second team all-M&O Conference third baseman last season, and Kayla VanLanen, an honorable mention all-conference catcher in 2012.

The other junior is first baseman Riley Schultz, a second-year varsity softball player.

"I'm very pleased with our infield," Martin said. "We're solid and experienced there."

Sophomore first baseman Sierra Demmith is working her way back into form following a knee injury.

The other sophomores are Linsey Hannon and Alyssa Hornick at centerfield at second base, and Kayla Boye, a versatile shortstop, outfielder and pitcher. Hannon and Hornick are promising first-year players.

Six freshmen are competing for outfield positions. They include Katie Wagner, Hailey Salter, McKenzie Stoll, Sarah Waara, Sarah Carlin and Grace Smiley.

"Their heart is there and they're learning as they go," Martin said of her freshmen. "They're going to be OK. It's going to take time, and not being able to go outside isn't helping any. I'm excited with our infield, but we've got a lot of work to do with our outfield. Most teams do."

The Cavalettes did manage to get outside for one practice this week, and Martin praised the Marinette Recreation Department for its work on Higley Field.

While they haven't gotten many swings against live pitching, the Cavalettes have been utilizing gym time to work on bunting.

"What I love about this team is that we've got a lot of speed," according to Martin.

Fred Carl is again the assistant coach. The Cavalettes are scheduled to play a doubleheader today at 4 p.m. against White Lake at Higley Field. Their next scheduled game is at home Monday against Gillett.