By Matt Turer — firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pride of Pleasant Hope. That’s not an official thing, but it probably should be for Pleasant Hope softball. The Pirates continue to be one of the best and most consistent programs in the Ozarks and deserve all the recognition they get.
Their success continued last year with a sixth district title in the last eight seasons, a Class 2 state quarterfinal appearance (lost 1-0 to Blair Oaks), and an 18-11 record. Now, five years removed from a state championship, the Pirates face a bit of a rebuild. At least on the mound.
All-state outfielder (and pitcher) Ellie Lane is gone (and playing at Evangel this fall). As is all-region pitcher (and outfielder) Jenna Halbrook (also Evangel), all-region shortstop Nichole Mosley (off to Fort Scott Community College), all-district outfielder Sydnee Baldwin and pitcher Madison Daugherty.
“We lost a lot,” Pleasant Hope head coach Kevin McVey said. “We’re trying to find some girls who want to step up, step in and fill those spots. Overall [this summer], I’ve been pretty happy.”
McVey had the luxury of throwing a three-girl rotation last fall with Lane (69 IP), Halbrook (57 IP, 87 K, 9 BB, 3-1 in playoffs) and Daugherty (56 IP, 67 K, 2.13 ERA). Now, he’ll be looking to sophomore Jaydin Lee to become a true No. 1.
Lee looked good in limited action this spring, striking out 14 and walking five in nine innings (0.78 ERA). She also swings a good bat, hitting .474 with 11 runs and 26 RBIs in the spring.
“[Lee] didn’t get a whole lot of work last year with having three pitchers, but she’s done real well this summer. She’s somebody to watch,” McVey said. “She’ll get some [strikeouts] here and there, but she pitches to contact and strives to get a lot of spin and movement on her pitches.”
The Pirates bring back four starters in junior third baseman Abby Henson (.426 AVG., 28 R, 29 RBI), sophomore catcher Lindsey Gettle (.322 AVG., 9 R, 20 RBI), junior outfielder Katelyn Stewart (.289 AVG., 22 R, 16 RBI) and senior first baseman Salette Trujillo (.268 AVG., 11 R, 11 RBI).
Henson and Gettle had exceptionally promising spring seasons, hitting .595 and .395—well above their fall averages, which is what you want to see against a weaker spring schedule.
“Looking at the way we’ve performed this summer, I think we’re going to be just as competitive [as we have been],” McVey said. “My pitcher is a little bit different so we’re working to learn how she’s going to throw and how it’s going to affect the defense, but I think we’re going to be just as competitive this year. Of course we always look to win districts and move on.”
McVey projects senior outfielder Sierra Sutton (Spring stats: .415 AVG., 9 R) and sophomore outfielder Janae Shirk (Spring stats: .257 AVG., 19 R) to start. Junior infielder Courtney Jenkins (Spring stats: .257 AVG., 13 R), senior infielder Emaly Wells (Spring stats: .217 AVG., 9 R), and sophomore infielder Macie Warner are all competing for an infield spot.
“[Shirk] has been playing well this summer,” McVey said. “Hitting the ball well. Great outfielder. I have three talented, experienced players in outfield.”
Class 2 Pleasant Hope has a history of playing up in Class during the season and will continue to do so this year against programs like Marshfield and Camdenton (and more).
“If you want to be good you’ve got to play good competition,” McVey said. “If you’re playing real good teams, when you get into districts you’re not as nervous. You know what it takes to win.”