Herald-Whig

A capsule look at the Missouri prep softball season

 Monroe Highland
Highland's Lauren Merrell delivers a pitch to a Monroe City batter during their game Monday night in Monroe City, Mo. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 15, 2018 9:55 am

Canton

Coach: Jonathan Bastian (21-5 at Canton, second season)

2017 record: 21-5

Returning starters: SS Laken Hugenburg, Sr.; C Hunter Collins, Jr.; P/3B Abbey Hultz, Jr.; P/1B Abby Jarvis, Soph.; 3B/1B/OF Tegan Burbridge, Soph.; 2B/OF Riley Marshall, Jr.

Other returners: OF Emilie Reiffer, Sr.

New faces: None listed.

Key losses: P/OF Olivia Jarvis, OF Katie Gaus, 2B Brianna Caldwell

Outlook: The loss of three seniors will hurt, especially all-state pitcher Olivia Jarvis, but Canton is still loaded with talent from a team that captured the Class 1 state championship last fall.

Hugenburg, another all-state selection last year, returns after hitting .465 a season ago along with five home runs and a team-high 47 RBIs. The rest of the production will come from juniors and sophomores like Abby Jarvis (.408), Hultz (.367), Marshall (.364) and Collins (.356). That foursome combined to drive in 66 runs last season.

Pitching duties will be split between Hultz and Abby Jarvis, who combined for five victories and over 40 innings last season.

"We'll be reloaded and ready to take on the 2018 season with a big target on our backs," Bastian said. "The biggest strength this year will be the experience the players have under their belts."

Clark County

Coach: Macy Bross (35-35 at Clark County, fourth season)

2017 record: 12-13 (4-4 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: 1B Abby Ellison, Sr.; C Aubry Boulware, Sr.; 3B Nicole Plenge, Sr.; DH Isiabell Acklie, Jr.

Other returners: OF Carley Kirchner, Sr.; OF Katelyn Kirchner, Sr.

New faces: 2B Jade Ross, Jr.; OF/IF Madison Bergman, Jr.; OF Dayanara Daniels, Jr.; OF Camryn Lee, Jr.; SS Acklie, Jr, P Kiara Brunk, Soph.

Key losses: SS Drenda Hess, OF Maggie Schutte, OF Abby Brown, 2B Breanna Lee, P Rachel Buschling.

Outlook: The Indians lost five starters from last season's squad, which will have Bross looking to mix and match for the best fit. That could lead to growing pains during a rebuild year, but Bross still believes the Indians will be competitive.

Boulware returns as a third-year starting catcher. She hit .393 with 19 RBIs and a pair of home runs last season. Acklie hit .273 with 10 RBIs while as the team's designated hitter, and she will play shortstop this season.

The Indians will need to fill the void left by Buschling in the circle, and Bross will count on Brunk in just her second season. Bross also wants the Indians to be solid defensively this year.

"We struggled last year defensively, so that's been the main focus so far this preseason," Bross said. "To be successful this year, we have to fix those defensive problems we had last year."

Hannibal

Coach: Andrew Pollard (first season at Hannibal)

2017 record: 15-11 (8-4 North Central Missouri Conference)

Returning starters: C Hailey Whittaker, Sr.; 2B/SS Josie Zeiger, Sr.; P Taylor Wilson, Sr.; OF Lauran Haye, Sr.; OF Kennedy Schmohe, Sr.; 3B Taylor Simms, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: SS/2B Avery Lake, Jr.; CF Sydney Hart, Soph.; DP/P Kylie McAfee, Fr.; 1B Emille Wilson, Fr.

Key losses: SS Olivia Pfeifer, P Desi Garcia, CF Tori Moore, 1B Haley Bautch.

Outlook: The Pirates graduated one of the best bats in the area in Pfeifer, who hit .522 with 20 RBIs last season, as well as starting pitcher Garcia, who went 10-10 last season. However, Pollard believes hitting will still be a strength for the Pirates as they contend for the NCMC title.

Zeiger is back after hitting .353 a year ago and drove in a team-high 31 RBIs. Haye also returns after hitting .298 with 17 RBIs, and Simms hit .287 with 16 RBIs. Wilson will be called upon in the circle after going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 392/3 innings last season.

"Our conference this year is going to be the most competitive it has been in awhile," Pollard said. "There are not many teams who lost starters."

Highland

Coach: Paul Scifres (177-88 at Highland, 12th season)

2017 record: 17-10 (5-3 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: OF Becca Scott, Sr.; C Carli Scifres, Sr.; 3B Taylor Bringer, Sr.; SS Kennedy Flanagan, Sr.; 1B Addy Johnson, Jr.; P Lauren Merrell, Jr.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: OF Gabby Brown, Jr.; INF Amber Megee, Soph.; OF Grace Murphy, Sr.; INF Sam Smyser, Sr.; INF Morgan Jennings, Sr.

Key losses: 2B Kara Baker, OF Brooke Miller, OF Caitlin Hickerson, OF Haley Meyer.

Outlook: Six veteran starters return for the Cougars this season, who look to get past the district title game this season.

Scott returns as the team's leading hitter after recording a .478 batting average while slugging seven homers and driving in 40 RBIs. Scifres (.382), Johnson (.349), Flanagan (.333), and Bringer (.312) all return to give the Cougars a solid hitting club.

Merrell came on strong last season in the circle, recording a 15-7 record with a 2.17 ERA in 122 innings while striking out 145 during her sophomore campaign.

"We believe we can be very competitive in the conference," Scifres said. "We look to make some noise in the postseason."

Knox County

Coach: Zach Short (first season at Knox County)

2017 record: 15-8 (5-3 Lewis & Clark Conference)

Returning starters: P/UT Katie Hamlin, Sr.; 2B Savannah Mauck, Sr.; SS Tadym Mason, Sr.; 1B Sidney Miller, Sr.; CF Haleigh Miller, Sr.; P/OF Kinsley Johnson, Soph.; C/IF Riley Strange, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: UT McKayla Griffith, Sr.; OF Kaitlin Campbell, Soph.; P/IF Daniella Dooley, Fr.; C/IF Taylor Walker, Fr.; OF Lindsey Howe, Sr.

Key losses: C Reagan Winter, OF/P Emily Nichols, CF Jessie Anderson.

Outlook: Short inherits a team loaded with seniors in his first season with the Eagles, and he'll look for those veterans to help push for a district championship.

Hamlin returns after hitting .459, two homers and driving in 29 RBIs a year ago. She also registered a 1.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts from the circle.

The Eagles return four other senior starters. Add in the depth from an underclassman group, and Short feels confident about his first team.

"We have five key seniors who have played significant innings since their freshman year," Short said. "We are counting on them to lead the way."

Louisiana

Coach: Bill Capps (60-70 at Louisiana, seventh season)

2017 record: 6-16 (1-7 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: P/INF Maria Gutierrez, Sr.; INF/OF Autumn Castagna, Sr.; C/INF Stephanie Mills, Jr.

Other returners: 1B Gretchen Capps, Jr. P Faith Rule, Jr.

New faces: P/OF Kindell Crowder, Sr.; INF Emma Inglis, Soph.; OF Abby Moore, Sr.; INF Marin Powers, Sr.

Key losses: INF/OF Raelee Burse, INF Kayla Lindsay.

Outlook: The Bulldogs enter their first season into the Eastern Missouri Conference in a transition year. Several seniors will be playing varsity softball for the first time, which could mean a learning curve early in the season.

Louisiana, however, does return pitchers Gutierrez and Rule who can keep the Bulldogs in games. Gutierrez had a 3.09 ERA in 93 innings while striking out 78. She also returns as the team's leading hitter after batting .507 and driving in 21 RBIs last season.

The key for Louisiana will be improving the offense and scoring runs.

"We did well last year in collecting hits, but we struggled to push runs across when needed," Capps said. "Many of our losses last year were by a run or two."

Marion County

Coach: Erin Cunningham (57-205 at Marion County, 14th season)

2017 record: 4-17

Returning starters: 1B Makenzie Crook, Jr.; OF Elizabeth Corey, Sr.; 2B Delaney Huffman, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: P Halle Keilholz, Fr.; C Delaney Straus, Fr.; 3B/OF Riley Donath, Fr.; SS/CF Karissa Kennedy, Fr.; 2B/OF Madison Stewart, Fr.

Key losses: C Payton Hays, P Heanna Huffman, 3B Makayla Corey.

Outlook: The Mustangs will be extremely young and inexperienced this season, especially at the battery. Keilholz and Straus will make up the pitching and catching duties for Marion County, and both are incoming freshmen. Of the 13 players on roster, 10 of them are freshmen.

Marion County also took a hit when Hays underwent shoulder surgery that will keep her out until December. She hit .421 with 12 RBIs as the Mustangs' catcher last season.

"If I can keep everyone healthy, we have nowhere to go but up," Cunningham said. "These girls may be young, but they are really trying to get better and we are working hard on fundamentals and confidence."

Mark Twain

Coach: Kachina Hudson (18-61 at Mark Twain, fourth season)

2017 record: 3-19 (1-10 Eastern Missouri Conference)

Returning starters: 3B Bria Hooley, Sr.; OF Elizabeth Trower, Soph.; UT Emma Clarkson, Soph.; P Sydnee Brothers, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: None listed.

Key losses: None listed.

Outlook: The Tigers lost seven seniors from last year's roster, which means the team will be relatively young this season. Hooley is the only listed senior on roster, and she returns to the hot corner. Brothers returns to the circle after starting as a freshman and will look to continue her growth.

Hudson wants to see her young players continue to improve and step into their roles throughout the season.

"It is going to be a growing year for us," Hudson said. "Everyone has an important role to play for our team this year, and the goal is for everyone to understand the game."

Monroe City

Coach: Melissa Chinn (110-78 at Monroe City, 10th season)

2017 record: 20-4 (6-3 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: P/CF McKenzie West, Sr.; SS Skyler Kauble, Sr.; C Rachel Smith, Sr.; RF Savannah Hetzler, Sr.; 2B Lauren Youngblood, Jr.; 3B Bailee Hays, Soph.; CF/P Riley Quinn, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: P Montana Masterson, Soph.; OF Mackenzie Moss, Fr.; OF Carly Youngblood, Fr.; 1B Danielle Pfanner, Jr.

Key losses: 1B Haleigh St. Clair.

Outlook: After a promising start to the season, the Panthers struggled late and fell short of a second straight district title. With only one player lost to graduation, Monroe City is reloaded to try for a postseason run.

West became one of the area's best pitchers after a 14-4 campaign with a 1.48 ERA in 109 innings with 113 strikeouts last fall, and she hit .468 with two homers and 11 RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Kauble returns after hitting .474 with 16 RBIs, and Quinn drove in a team-high 31 RBIs last year. Youngblood hit better than .400 and drove in 21 runs, while Hays added 23 RBIs.

That offensive talent and West's pitching has the Panthers thinking big.

"If we can stay healthy all year, we should be able to compete at the top of the conference," Shinn said. "I'm hoping these girls can put it together at the right time."

North Shelby

Coach: Haley Hardy (27-76 at North Shelby, sixth season)

2017 record: 1-20

Returning starters: LF Taya Wilcox, Sr.; 2B Nicole Pantaleo, Sr.; P Jacey Trenhaile, Sr.; SS/3B Maggie vonThun, Jr.; CF Presley Stoneburner, Jr.; INF/OF Lily Cook, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: C Jaylea Barrick, Fr.; 3B/RF Haley Roff, Fr.; UT Kailyn Bales, Soph.

Key losses: SS Makayla McDaniel, 1B Mackenzie Vanskike.

Outlook: The Raiders have just 13 players on roster this season, and a lot of them are inexperienced. That means practices this preseason have focused on situational defense to limit errors to stay in ball games.

Pantaleo returns as the leading hitter after she hit .400 with 16 stolen bases last season. Wilcox hit .370 and drove in eight RBIs, while Trenhaile drove in seven runs. VonThun hit .368 last season for the Raiders. Trenhaile is back in the circle and will look to improve after pitching just 26 innings.

"I keep telling them as long as we can control what we can control, play to the best of our ability and work harder than the opposing team, we will have a successful year," Hardy said.

Palmyra

Coach: Jill Arch (30-20 at Palmyra, third season)

2017 record: 19-9 (8-1 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: 3B Lexi Arch, Sr.; 2B Megan Stone, Jr.; SS Bailey Lovelace, Jr.; RF Morgan Ingram, Sr.; P Lauren VanTress, Sr.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: 1B Cameron O'Brien, Jr.; CF Emma Witler, Jr.; RF Sophie Hoerr, Soph.; P Lydia Althoff, Soph.

Key losses: C Brooke Wilson, 1B Baylee Anderson, CF Grace Watson, LF Alyssa Loman, P Alana Comstock.

Outlook: The Panthers returned to the top half of the CCC standings and captured a district championship last fall, only to lose to state champion Bowling Green in the Class 2 quarterfinals. Palmyra did lose key players like Wilson to graduation, but the returning core could compete for a CCC title again.

Lexi Arch returns as the leading hitter after hitting .374 with 19 RBIs last season. Lovelace also drove in 19 runs and hit .337 last season, while Stone hit .348 with two home runs and 17 RBIs.

The graduation of Comstock means the pitching duties will be heavily on VanTress this season. She went 9-5 last year with a 2.20 ERA in 791/3 innings while striking out 81.

"We have to be more consistent at the plate and use our speed to put ourselves in scoring position," Jill Arch said. "Winning the Clarence Cannon Conference and our district will be a difficult task for our team, but we are very capable."

Scotland County

Coach: Kimberly Small (13th season at Scotland County)

2017 record: 16-9 (6-2 Lewis & Clark Conference)

Returning starters: 1B Madie Bondurant, Sr.; OF Julie Long Sr.; 2B Khloe Hamlin, Sr.; SS Kylee Stott, Soph.; C Katie Feeney, Jr.; OF Kaylyn Anders, Sr.

Other returners: OF Abby Blessing, Sr.; P Kaitlyn McMinn, Jr.

New faces: 3B Hannah Feeney, Fr.; OF Morgan Blessing, Soph.

Key losses: C Stevi See, P Ashleigh Creek.

Outlook: Creek was the Tigers' most versatile player with her arm and her bat last season, and that's something Small's squad will have to replace this fall.

Two players return after hitting above .300 last season in Katie Feeney (.381) and Anders (.342) and combined to drive in 39 runs. McMinn will be relied upon in the circle. In her limited action last year, she went 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 20 innings.

"We know there are some big shoes to fill in our pitching and catching duo," Small said. "We only graduated two girls last year, so the defense behind our pitcher will have to be pretty solid."

South Shelby

Coach: Taylor O'Laughlin (8-13 at South Shelby, second season)

2017 record: 8-13 (1-6 Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: 1B Diane Mayes, Sr.; P Sadie Wear, Sr.; C Autumn Blackford, Sr.

Other returners: OF Serenity Tebow, Sr.

New faces: None listed.

Key losses: C Caitlyn Poore, SS Lily Wegman.

Outlook: The Lady Birds return five seniors after a losing season in O'Laughlin's first year as coach. They'll look to reverse that this fall and contend for a district championship again.

Mayes returns as the team's leading hitter after hitting .429 last season, while Blackford hit .333 with a team-high 16 RBIs. Wear is back in the circle for the Lady Birds after going 8-13 last year with a 4.01 ERA in 131 innings and 114 strikeouts.

"The team will look to the seniors to guide the team since they are the only returners from last year," O'Laughlin said. "We will rely on the bats of Mayes, Blackford and Wear to carry our team."