By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After graduating seven seniors from last year’s district championship squad, Rogersville will look to quickly reload for the 2018 campaign.
The Lady Wildcats were 18-11 on the season, before running into eventual Class 3 state champion Monett in the sectional round.
Hailey Brown, Hunter Brown, Lori Vedder, Jadyn Dond, Brianna Banker, Kylie Eakins and Emma Tracy depart the program as graduates. Hunter Brown, Rogersville’s ace last season, will continue her career at Central Methodist College this fall.
With a host of spots in the lineup to fill this season, head coach Denny McHenry looks forward to the challenge of reaching the program’s fifth-straight district championship game.
“It’s always a challenge when a team graduates seven seniors from a successful season,” McHenry said. “And the process of players putting the team in front of their individual glory. I feel with have six experienced returners and a nice mixture of older and younger girls who have the ability and skill level to help us compete at a higher level.”
Key returnees for the Lady Wildcats include junior catcher Shelby Ince — a 2017 all-state selection (.433 / 42 hits / 31 RBI / 17 SB), junior pitcher Paige Leithead (.407 / 33 hits / 27 RBI), senior pitcher Julia Marshall (.352 / 31 hits / 18 RBI), senior outfielder Lindsay Schatzer (.348 / 32 hits / 19 RBI), senior second baseman Taylor Williams (.337 / 29 hits / 22 RBI) and junior shortstop Angie Coambes (.328 / 20 hits).
Competition for playing time will be fierce, as newcomers to the varsity roster look to make their mark.
Seniors Taylor Marshall (OF), Hannah Shirley (OF) and Lilly Valdez (OF/1B) will look to shore up the Rogersville attack, along with juniors Cassidy Chapman (OF/C) and Jordan Kirk (3B).
McHenry will also look to a talented freshman class that finished 14-1 last season in middle school. Meghan Hager (CF), Jenna Lane (C) and Jenna Mckenzie (OF/P) could all be poised to have an immediate impact on the varsity roster this season.
In the Rogersville circle, both Marshall and Leithead will compete for the No. 1 spot.
“To be successful, they must both command the strike zone early in the count and change speeds while changing pitching levels,” McHenry said. “Jenna Mckenzie will also see some time in the circle.”
With the demise of the Central Ozarks Conference Small Division, Rogersville will also attempt to navigate its way through a new conference this season in the Big 8 Conference. The Lady Wildcats join familiar COC rivals Marshfield, Hollister, Reeds Spring and Springfield Catholic in the conference’s East Division.
“Our expectations are to continue the winning tradition in our new conference as we built in the COC,” McHenry said. “We hope to continue this trait by playing the some of the toughest competition the Ozarks have to offer.”
Following an Aug. 18 jamboree with Nixa, Walnut Grove and Republic, Rogersville will open its season in the Aug. 25 Buffalo Invitational Tournament.