Ninth Region coaches softball rankings, players to watch

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The reigning Ninth Region champions Highlands Bluebirds and the Ryle Raiders, who are coming off a semi-final appearance in the region tournament, were voted co-No. 1 in the preseason rankings for ninth region softball voted on by the coaches. 

Highlands has the No. 1 ranked player in the region in Kennedy Baioni and Bailey Markus who is ranked No. 10.  The Raiders also have two players ranked in the top 10 with Madison Goddard being ranked third and Avery Parson slotted in at No. five.  

Highlands’ Kennedy Baioni is the preseason top ranked player in the Ninth Region, voted on by the coaches in the region. G. Michael Graham | LINK nky

The next three teams in the rankings are Dixie Heights, Conner, and Cooper. The Colonels are looking to build off a Ninth Region runner-up season where they fell just short of the title against the bluebirds. Dixie’s Ella Steczynski was voted No. 2 in the preseason top 10 player rankings.  

The Cougars and Jaguars will be battling with Ryle in the tough 33rd district. Conner was unable to reach the ninth region tournament last season, but No. 9 ranked Mollie Sharp and company believe this is their year to make it back. Cooper, who had the most players voted in the top 10 with Ava Scott, Emily Schmeltz, and Kendall Blau being ranked six through eight, lost in the regional semi-final in 2022 to eventual champion Highlands. 

Next up in the ranking were the Boone County Rebels, Notre Dame Pandas, and the Beechwood Tigers. The Rebels return Harper Kinman, who was voted fourth in the region. The Pandas return multiple starters from a 2022 team that won the 35th district championship. Beechwood’s Katelyn Murphy and Laney Hatridge were both honorable mentions for the top 10. The Tigers will be looking to build off a promising 2022 in which they graduated only one senior. 

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Rounding out the top 10 is Dayton, Villa Madonna, and Holy Cross. The Green Devils are led by two honorable mention players in Mckenzie Gifford and Mckenize Sullivan.  Villa Madonna, who reached the first round of the ninth region tournament last season, will aim to challenge Dixie Heights in the 34th district once again. Holy Cross returns their entire team from 2022 that had zero seniors and came up just short of a Ninth Region birth. 

The 2023 season will begin on Monday, Mar. 13. 

Top 10 Teams (voted on by the coaches)

T1. Highlands

T1. Ryle

3. Dixie Heights 

4. Conner

5. Cooper

6. Boone County

T7. Notre Dame 

T7. Beechwood

9. Dayton

T10. Villa Madonna

T10. Holy Cross 

Top 10 Players (voted on by the coaches)

  1. Kennedy Baioni, Highlands
  2. Ella Steczynski, Dixie Heights
  3. Madison Goddard, Ryle
  4. Harper Kinman, Boone County 
  5. Avery Parsons, Ryle
  6. Ava Scott, Cooper
  7. Emily Schmeltz, Cooper
  8. Kendall Blau, Cooper 
  9. Mollie Sharp, Conner
  10. Bailey Markus, Highlands 

Others Receiving Votes: Alivia Scott, Carley Cramer, Claire Poage, Jalyn Cain, Katelynn Murphy, Laney Hatridge, Laney Schuster, McKenzie Gifford, McKenzie Runion, McKenzie Sullivan, Michelle Barth, Payton Godfrey, Rebecca Blaker, Riley Hopkins, Tori Danneman

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