North Oldham walks into the 2023 season coming off a year in which it went 6-18 with a roster that featured just four high schoolers.

This year’s group is still young – it has just two upperclassmen – but first-year head coach Jeff Wagner said that the team makes up for what it lacks in age with hard work.

“We’re young, but I’ll tell you right now, we’re going to shock a lot of people,” Wagner said. “These girls have worked their tails off since October. We put them through college level-type training … and they’re into that, they’re buying in, they’re learning.”

Despite the youth, the team possesses plenty of talent. Wagner, who played baseball at Notre Dame and in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization, has coached a handful of players on this year’s squad in the Fusion organization, which has experienced ample success in recent seasons.

“The seventh graders, eighth graders and freshmen have been with me for three years. In those last three years, we’ve won 21 tournaments, so they’re ready to go,” Wagner said. “They know how to play the game – our summer record proves that. If we take care of our business, we’ll do just fine.”

The Lady Mustangs return the bulk of their lineup, led by eighth grader Campbell White (.371 batting average) and the team’s lone senior, Annie Maynard (.282 average, 21 runs batted in).

“I think we’re doing a lot better, and it’s going to show when we play games,” Maynard said. “Most of our players played varsity last year too, and I think they’re really good.”

North Oldham also adds a few impact players, including Wagner’s daughter Alexandra, as well as junior Brooke Bennett, who only played in five games last year.

“Our success is going to be built off our freshman and eighth graders,” Wagner said. “But Brooke Bennett is a major talent, just a powerhouse. When the ball comes off her, Lord only knows what happens.”

The Lady Mustangs also return a trio of pitchers that all manned the circle for at least 43 innings last year in freshmen Jessalyn Travis and Kadie Bosemer and eighth grader Avery Becker (3.53 earned run average).

North Oldham will be younger than nearly every team it faces this year, but Wagner said it’s important for the Lady Mustangs to not let that impact their approach to games.

“We are a very young team, but I tell these girls that I don’t care if the Yankees show up – we have to play our game,” Wagner said. “If we play the way we’re taught and do what we need to do, we’ll be successful.”

While Wagner is high on the team’s ability, he’s also managing expectations going into year one leading a program that’s most recent postseason victory came in 2017.

“We’re going to be playing teams that are all juniors and seniors, so we’re obviously going to be behind on size and strength,” Wagner said. “We don’t expect mad success, but they won six games last year – we’re not only winning six games this year.”

Wagner also has one eye on the future. With a roster that likely contains several future collegiate players, he believes the program is capable of competing at an elite level in the years to come.

“We’re not going to win a state championship this year, but we can do that in two or three years,” Wagner said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got great kids, great parents and a great community.”

North Oldham opens its season with four games in five days, beginning with a road matchup at Fern Creek on March 13.

“We’ve done all the work we can do. We are prepared, but at the end of the day, the girls have to show up and perform,” Wagner said. “We’ve got to keep progressing and working.”