By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The first steps to state start Friday and Saturday for southwest Missouri softball programs. Here’s a look at what to expect in district championship play.
Class 4 – District 12
Semifinal Matchups: 1 Webb City (22-5-1) vs. 5 Carthage (15-14), 2 Republic (18-8) vs. 3 Neosho (10-13)
The Favorite: Webb City
The Cardinals are the best softball team in southwest Missouri. They’re undefeated against area programs and have more than competed against programs closer to Kansas City. Webb is 6-0 against district opponents, beating each at least once and outscoring them 72-12. This lineup (.427 team avg.) and rotation (5 starters with at least 25 IP) is as deep as you’ll find.
Alternate Ending: While it’s hard to picture an alternate ending with as dominant as Webb has been, Republic has a lineup that can get hot from top-to-bottom. If Kaitlin Ragsdale (.470 AVG./40 SB) can set the table for a powerful 2-5 stretch that includes Ally Stolte (9 HR) and Liv Collier (5 HR), the Tigers can compete. Carthage is coming off a good 3-1 quarterfinals win over McDonald County, but a win over Webb City is tough to imagine. The same is said for Neosho, which lost handily to both Republic and Webb this season.
Class 4 – District 11
Championship Matchup: 1 Kickapoo (21-8) vs. 2 Ozark (20-9)
The Favorite: Kickapoo
The Chiefs get the nod thanks to what’s been the most consistent season of anyone in what’s the region’s strongest overall district—plus a 10-1 win over Ozark back in late August carries weight. Kickapoo’s mostly young lineup has been led by experienced seniors Chloe Bowen and Emily Admire. Bowen is hitting a team-high .453 and has yet to strike out in 95 plate appearances. Admire is 21-4 with a 1.69 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 154 innings in addition to team highs in doubles (12-T), homers (12) and RBIs (42). Chloe Merced has continued a stellar freshman year, but the key may be the late-season play of fellow freshman Ellie Facklam, who’s hit safely in 20 of her last 45 at-bats (.444) after starting her varsity career 6 for 31.
Alternate Ending: Defending district champion Ozark started hot, endured a 4-8 stretch and now rides a nine-game win streak. Brooke Pridgen has been magnificent over the win streak, allowing just eight earned runs in her last 57.2 innings. Ozark was knocked around and shut down by Kickapoo in a 10-1 loss back in August, but that was a long time ago. Plus, Ozark has Nya Morgan, who’s putting up one of the best power seasons in state history: .472 avg., 14 HR, 1.531 OPS. Her 14 homers put her third all-time for a single season. The state record for a single season is 16 (held by 3 players).
Class 4 – District 10
Championship Matchup: 1 Camdenton (20-9) vs. 3 Lebanon (12-14)
The Favorite: Camdenton
This is the Lakers’ district to lose. Camdenton came in with more overall depth than any program in C4D10, is hitting .377 as a team and has one of the best young pitchers in the state in Haile Farris. Shelby Webster (.534 AVG./1.512 OPS/8 HR) continues to impress at the plate. We haven’t seen the Lakers face Lebanon this season, and while the Yellowjackets can put up runs, Camdenton’s pitching should be the difference.
Alternate Ending: Lebanon has been hot, winning eight of 11 games coming in after upsetting 2-seed Waynesville 13-3 in the semifinals. Cally Blattel and Avery Hlavacek lead a lineup that has four regular starters with an OPS over 1.000. Camdenton has been inconsistent at times this season, dropping games to Class 2 Pleasant Hope and Dixon, meaning this district isn’t a guarantee.
Class 3 – District 12
Championship Matchup: 1 Monett (17-10) vs. 2 Cassville (13-12)
The Favorite: Monett
Six of Monett’s 10 losses have come against Class 4 programs. The Cubs are a program that’s played up all year—something that will have prepared them nicely for district play and beyond. Monett easily handled Cassville this season, 11-1. Monett’s lineup depth (.379 team AVG.) and combination of power (56 XBH) and speed (109 SB) should be enough to wrap up another district title.
Alternate Ending: The Wildcats have had a tough and trying season, but this is still a lineup and pitcher that’s talented enough to compete against Monett. Josie Lone was excellent in a 6-0 semifinal shutout of a pretty good East Newton team and seems to be coming back into her true form over the last few games. If this championship stays close it will likely come down to pitching.
Class 3 – District 11
Championship Matchup: 1 West Plains (24-4) vs. 2 Logan-Rogersville (17-10)
The Favorite: West Plains
Despite a breakout season by Reeds Spring and a vastly improved Hillcrest program, this is the championship rematch most expected in C3D11. And West Plains is the favorite to repeat. The Zizzers have one of the deepest lineups in the area in Class 3 and one of the best pitchers in the state in Abbey Gann. With 3-1 and 4-3 wins over Rogersville earlier this year, the Zizzers are familiar with the Wildcats and know what they need to do to wrap up another district title.
Alternate Ending: Rogersville brought back its entire roster from last season and is one of the most experienced area teams you’ll find. The Wildcats have played West Plains to two close losses by a combined three runs and will be hungry to get over the hump, especially after losing a close one to the Zizzers in last year’s district championship.
Class 3 – District 10
Semifinal Matchups: 1 Marshfield (12-12) vs. 4 Buffalo (9-16), 2 Bolivar (12-14) vs. 3 Osage (11-10)
The Favorite: Bolivar
This is the toughest district to judge, but it’s Bolivar’s potential that gives the Liberators the nod. Bolivar hasn’t been nearly as good in the second half, but part of that is due to injury. However, this lineup is the best in the district and is hitting over .370 as a team. With five regular starters hitting over .400 and pitching looking better of late, the Liberators should have the best odds of winning a district that probably won’t see many pitcher’s duels.
Alternate Ending: Marshfield beat Bolivar 10-9 on Sept. 19 and has been consistently able to find ways to produce runs this season. Zoe Bisby (6 HR, .436 AVG.) leading this group to a district title wouldn’t be a surprise. To get there, the Blue Jays need to get by Buffalo. The Bison have given Marshfield trouble twice this year, beating the Blue Jays 8-5 in Rolla Tournament and losing to them 8-5 in regular play. Osage is the wild card. The Indians easily handled Buffalo this year but have been pretty inconsistent and tough to judge overall.
Class 2 – District 12
Championship Matchup: 1 Warsaw (19-7) vs. 2 Pleasant Hope (15-11)
The Favorite: Pleasant Hope
And why shouldn’t it be the Pirates? Pleasant Hope is a consistent district championship threat that packs its schedule with Class 3 and 4 opponents (11 this year) to prepare for these moments. This year, that includes wins over Willard, California, Camdenton, Rolla and Buffalo. This is a lineup that appears to struggle at times (.301 AVG.) but whose numbers take a hit from scheduling up. The Pirates lost 6-4 to Warsaw in nine innings in the Warsaw Tournament on Sept. 9, but their experience should pay off on Saturday.
Alternate Ending: Warsaw is in the midst of its best season since winning a state title in 2010. The Wildcats have two good pitchers in Kya Schepker and Payge Adair and a lineup that’s hit over .350 as a group for most of the season. If Schepker, Aubrie McRoberts and Rayni Simons continue to hit like they have, the Wildcats can get to Pleasant Hope starter Jaydin Lee and advance to sectionals for the first time since that 2010 season.
Class 2 – District 11
Semifinal Matchups: 1 Dixon (20-0) vs. 4 Richland (8-11), 2 Iberia (15-7) vs. 3 Cuba (12-9)
The Favorite: Dixon
Dixon will be the only area team in this championship and is the favorite to win it. The Bulldogs have been perfect this year (literally) and carry more momentum than anyone in Class 2 into the postseason—something aided by a 9-5 win over Class 4 Camdenton to close the regular season. Led by true ace Tressa Hughes (0.83 ERA, 235 K, 118 IP), the Bulldogs have only allowed more than two runs in a game twice all season and only once to another Class 2 opponent. The Bulldogs have four starters hitting over .400 with Hughes (.470) and Ryli Martin (.467) leading the way. There’s speed here as well with three Bulldogs having double-digit steals.
Alternate Ending: Iberia scored more runs than anyone all season in a 9-8 loss to Dixon in the Frisco League Tournament back in August. While Dixon came back and beat Iberia 12-2 in September, the Rangers will have confidence if that’s the championship matchup we end up getting.
Class 2 – District 2
Championship Matchup: 1 Willow Springs (18-7) vs. 2 Doniphan (17-4)
The Favorite: Willow Springs
Willow Springs shut out Doniphan in last year’s C2D2 semifinals and could very well put up a similar result this year. The Bears have been one of the biggest area threats to make a run at state all season and have mostly backed that up. Sydney Miller has put up big numbers again (2.47 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 188 K, 147.1 IP), and they’re numbers that are ballooned a bit by a tougher regular-season schedule than last year. The Bears came within a 1-0 loss of a state appearance in 2016 but have a stronger lineup this year led by Krysta Rader, Miller and Emily Fair.
Alternate Ending: Doniphan isn’t loaded with quality wins but the Donettes are vastly improved on the mound and defensively over last year’s team. If they can limit Willow Springs offensively, this will end up being anyone’s game.
Class 2 – District 1
Championship Matchup: 1 Ava (13-7) vs. 2 Mansfield (11-8)
The Favorite: Ava
The Bears have been good all year and already have an 11-1 win over Mansfield. Ashton Bewley has had a really nice season at the plate (.456 AVG., 1.243 OPS, 12 XBH, 3 HR) and leads a lineup that’s scored seven or more runs 12 times. A win would be Ava’s first district title this decade.
Mansfield has a bit of a top-heavy lineup but gets a ton of production out of Karsyn Brooke (.415 AVG., 1.285 OPS, 14 XBH) and Ashley Nelson (.956 OPS), who both have four homers. If Mansfield is to beat Ava, it likely won’t come in a low-scoring game. The Lions have scored 10 or more runs in five of their last seven.
Class 1 – District 4
Semifinal Matchups: 1 Weaubleau (19-4) vs. 4 Humansville (7-16), 2 Hermitage (16-5) vs. 3 Wheatland (11-13)
The Favorite: Weaubleau
Hermitage is C1D4’s defending champ, but Weaubleau has bested the Hornets in two out of three this year and continues to be one of the hottest teams in the region going back to last season. Three regular starters have an OPS over 1.000, led by stud freshman Jenna Daggett (1.507), who’s hitting .571 with 16 extra-base hits. Senior Jerika Vanderford’s three homers lead the team, and the Tigers have seven dingers as a group—a big number for C1. Daggett (1.67 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 92.1 IP) and Megan Flagg (2.33 ERA, 77 K, 45 IP) have been a great 1-2 combo on the mound.
Alternate Ending: Hermitage has the team to repeat as district champs. One of the Hornets’ two Weaubleau losses came in extras in tournament play, and they’ve posted impressive wins over Halfway and Walnut Grove in the past 2.5 weeks. Sheridam Corum (.515 AVG., 12 XBH) and Jade Morris (.500 AVG.) lead a good lineup that has some legit speed, and Corum (1.57 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 107 IP, 75 K) is the best and most experienced pitcher in this tournament. Wheatland has good young talent but has struggled this season. However, the Mules did play Hermitage to a 4-2 loss (but also loss 15-0 in a tournament). Humansville is winless against the remaining district opponents. A semifinal or final win would be a major upset.
Class 1 – District 3
Championship Matchup: 1 Halfway (19-6) vs. 3 Fair Play (9-13)
The Favorite: Halfway
Halfway snuck into the final O-Zone power rankings of the regular season and is now a win away from its first district title this decade. The Cardinals have already seen Fair Play, winning 10-0 on Sept. 7. This is a good lineup that has five starters hitting over .350 and is averaging 7.5 runs per game. Kendall Morris leads the team with a .474 mark. Katelyn Voris is hitting .451 with a team-high 17 doubles. Voris has also been dominant on the mound with a 1.85 ERA and 181 strikeouts.
Alternate Ending: Fair Play’s 9-4 semifinal win over a Walnut Grove team it lost to 5-0 and 14-2 earlier this season is a true upset, but both earlier those losses came amidst a 2-10 start. The Hornets are 7-3 since, have a good win over Morrisville and played Class 4 Parkview to a 4-3 loss. Despite a 10-0 loss to Halfway this season, let’s see what their recent momentum does.
Class 1 – District 2
Semifinal Matchups: 1 Dora (15-10) vs. 4 Stoutland (18-6), 2 Crocker (16-8) vs. 3 Norwood (12-9)
The Favorite: Stoutland
Led by hard-throwing sophomore Breanna Sein, Stoutland comes in as the hottest team in C1D2. Sein ended the regular season with 237 strikeouts and has helped the Tigers to wins in nine of their last 10. Of the four teams left, Stoutland has only faced Crocker, losing 10-2 in the Frisco League Tournament but winning 10-3 in regular play. They also carry quality C1 wins over Hermitage and Weaubleau.
Alternate Ending: This is anyone’s tournament to win with four of the area’s stronger Class 1 programs. Dora has played a tough schedule and has a win over Willow Springs on its resume. Kryslyn Colvin is batting .593, Keeli Land is batting .480 and has 117 strikeouts on the mound, and head coach Dylan Fox believes his team can beat anyone when they come ready to play. Crocker vs. Norwood is a rematch of last year’s district title. Crocker is led by speedy Abigail Posten (.493 AVG./42 SB) while Norwood comes in with a pair over .400 in Chloe Crain (.422 AVG.) and Josie Sullivan (.421 AVG.). Norwood sophomore pitcher Payton Drake (2.91 ERA/107 K/115.1 IP/1.35 WHIP) will be key but is more evenly matched with Crocker’s Sierra Voiles (1.32 WHIP/3.74 ERA) than their ERAs show.