by Rob Grubbs
The Defending region 3-AAAAA champion Whitewater Lady Wildcats softball team was hit hard by graduation last year as five seniors finished their high school careers. The new year has brought a roster full of new faces the coaching staff is still getting to know.
“We have a lot of freshman that are going to play and we are hoping they step up,” said Coach Robert Townsend before the season.
Granted, the cupboard is not entirely bare as Townsend has two of the best players in the state with senior SS Katelyn Perry and junior CF Bailey Vessell and an experienced senior pitcher in Kinsey Sords. Beyond those, however, will be players that need to grow up fast.
The Wildcats kicked off their season this week by going 3-0 with wins against Luella (twice) and Fayette County and served notice that the freshmen have come to play, scoring 49 runs in their first three games.
Freshmen Katie Goss, Raeghan Byrom, Kyna Cheney, and Lily Griffith made a strong initial impressions at the plate by going a combined 21-for-33 for a .636 average, including Chaney’s homerun to centerfield in her first career at bat at the Wildcats’ home stadium. Freshman pitcher Emma Vessell got her first career win in the opener against Luella.
While the tougher games for Whitewater are coming up fast, this young bunch will be fighting for the region lead all season. Sords and Kate Flanagen also got wins from the circle during the opening week.
The Fayette County Tigers return a Player of the Year candidate, senior catcher Rikkelle Miller, and feature a freshman pitcher of their own in Lindsey George, and look to be much improved. Against the Wildcats on Tuesday, their offense generated some runs, and George showed promise in the circle.
While it was not ideal to start the season against the defending region champions in wet, drizzly conditions, the Tigers looked tough and appear ready to challenge for a playoff spot this season. Against Whitewater, Miller got on base both times from the cleanup spot, and George added a hit as well. To make it to postseason, Head Coach Cassie Lawrimore’s Tigers will need to win their head-to-head games against the Griffin Bears, who made the region tournament last year as the four seed.
The Starr’s Mill Panthers look poised for a deep run into the playoffs as they only lost one player from last year’s team that finished fourth in the state. Head Coach Mark Williamson knows there is a target on his team’s back this year as they are the region favorite.
They opened 2017 by jumping right into the region schedule against Griffin at home. Sophomore Paige Andrews threw a complete game shutout, and the Panther offense pushed across six runs in the fourth inning with two outs as the Panthers won 8-0.
Williamson will be looking for senior leadership from Jordan Childress and Emily Nieuwstraten and the most experienced pitching rotation in the county to claim the top spot in the region.
With the season just getting started, there are a lot of young players that are going to be excited to watching this season and the seasons to come.
McIntosh opens up 2017 with romp over Eagle’s Landing
by Christopher Dunn
It was a dynamite season debut for McIntosh as the Chiefs opened up with a 7-2 win over Eagle’s Landing Monday night.
“It being opening day and the first day of school, we had to get a lot of kinks out, but I’m very pleased with our effort,” said Coach Carlie Anderson. “We have a lot of improvements to make, but there were a lot of positives, a lot of things to build on. It’s going to be a fun group to coach.”
Freshman pitcher Rebecca Muh made her first start with flair, striking out the side in the first inning and punching out 11 batters overall. She also flashed some good pop with her bat, smoking the ball over the left fielder’s head to drive in the game’s first run.
“She’s a gamer,” said Anderson. “We’re excited to have her.”
Morgan Hurd raced home on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead after one inning. They kept padding their lead with patience at the plate and aggressive base running, Brooke Burnett, Meagan McCamphill, and CassiDee Rotolo each crossing the plate, as the opposing pitcher struggled with control.
Each time Eagle’s Landing tried to claw back in, the Chiefs turned them away. Emma Dunlap’s single and an error plated Hayley Gill for the final run in the romp.