A coaching change midway through the season paired with injuries to key players didn’t deter Plato last year. The Lady Eagles advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals before falling to West County and ending with a 19-3 record. Now they once again face challenges with a district realignment that could make their bid for state more difficult as first-year coach Cody Bansemer takes over the program.
The Lady Eagles weathered another change last year: they were the only Frisco League team to choose spring as their primary season. But the Lady Eagles have a constant in assistant coach Laura Steinbrink, who has been with the team four years.
“Our last season was rather turbulent but a great ride overall,” said Steinbrink. “Our team feels like we have unfinished business in the postseason this year. Our goal is to make it to the final four, and we know that will not be an easy task. With our new district realignment, we are now in Strafford’s district, which should provide us with plenty of tough opponents who will be excellent competition.”
In their last face-off against Strafford, the Lady Eagles were missing three starters, two due to injury. “Other than falling one game shy of making it to state, our biggest regret is the 16-3 score of the Strafford game,” said Steinbrink. Strafford handed Plato one of their two regular season losses, with the other to a tough Mountain Home (Ark.) team they faced in the Van Buren Tourney.
The Lady Eagles graduated two players: Shalyn Steinbrink and Morrigan Hayes. Steinbrink played three seasons in the outfield before falling ill and sitting out her senior season. Hayes played outfield for two seasons and is now at Central Methodist University on the JV squad.
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Despite the losses, the Lady Eagles return all nine starting players who helped them advance to the postseason.
Hannah Breedlove and Kaitin Garrett led the way for the team last season, splitting pitching duties until district play, when Garrett solely took the circle and Breedlove moved to the outfield. Breedlove, now a senior, is an all-district first team pitcher (1.084 ERA) and all-region first team and all-state second team outfielder and can play anywhere needed. She batted .409 as a junior.
In her high school debut, Garrett was named to the all-district first team as an outfielder and all-region first team and all-state second team as a pitcher (1.615 ERA), and had the team’s highest batting average at .576.
McKayla Miller is a junior second baseman who hit .333 and 25 RBIs last season.
“McKayla was the one her coaches turned to when a teammate was struggling on the field,” said Steinbrink. “Her leadership and great plays on offense and defense allowed her to end her season as a second team all-district infielder.”
Second team all-district sophomore catcher Allie Hall fielded at 1.000 percent and had the second highest batting average at a whopping .526. Her diving catch of a pop-up foul ball against Clever helped propel Plato through sectional play and the powerhouse racked up 30 hits and 33 RBIs.
Starting right fielder Hannah Smith has power and speed at the plate and a wide range in the outfield. The sophomore missed several games last season with a broken wrist but hit .286 before her injury.
Senior Kendall Hall spent time as a leadoff batter, catcher, and at centerfield last spring, earning second team all-district honors for her outfielding. She fielded at 1.000 percent, led the Lady Eagles with steals (17), and batted .426. She was a key part of the sectional win over Clever with a Little League home run.
Second team all-district first baseman Abbey Penley fielded at 1.000 percent and batted .407 as a freshman. “She is a power hitter and one of the best first basemen around,” said Steinbrink. “She has all the tools to be an all-state first baseman.”
Starting third baseman Janet Garrett is a junior who played her first year of softball last season. She is quick, athletic, and has power and a great arm.
Junior shortstop Quincy Hall developed as a bunter last season. “She can be on first base from home plate in 2.7 seconds and ended the season with a .404 batting average due primarily to her laying the bunts down and beating the throws to first base,” said Steinbrink.
Delaney Waters had a solid freshman season with the ability to get on base, key defensive plays and big hits in close games. She batted .244.
Junior Grace Rossignol was injured in 2016 and will help in the outfield and from the bench.
Two freshmen could contribute at the varsity level. Kennedy Hall is the younger sister of two varsity starters and has played summer ball alongside the Lady Eagles. Athletic and speedy, she could assist in the outfield or infield. McKenzie Waters, athletic and versatile, has also played summer ball and brings power to the table.
The Plato girls also made Academic All State as a team, and Shalyn Steinbrink, Hannah Breedlove, and Quincy Hall made the individual team. The Lady Eagles batted .396 and had a .912 fielding percentage overall.
“We grew up a lot this postseason,” said Coach Steinbrink. “We faced talented teams, and at least on two occasions, this young team faced bases loaded with no outs and they did not allow a run to score. We can build on that.”
The Lady Eagles start their season at home against Dora on March 17.