By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A year removed from a district title, McDonald County was upset in the 2017 first round. While the Lady Mustangs finished the season with an 18-10 record, head coach Skyler Rawlins has the team hungry for another postseason run.
“We had a good group of younger players that we needed to get acclimated to the varsity level,” Rawlins said. “We had a successful season by all accounts, but we’d always like to see our season extend a little further.”
McDonald County will enter the new season without the services of graduated seniors Cloee Helm, Kenzie Stephens and Miryan Martinez. Stephens will continue her athletic career this fall at Cottey College.
The 2018 Lady Mustangs will feature a trio of seniors in catcher Kylie Helm, second baseman Leslie Yousey and pitcher Kaylee Cornell.
Helm’s leadership will continue making an impact on the team.
“Kylie will lead from behind the plate,” Rawlins said. “We see her continuing to be one of the most dynamic threats at the plate in Southwest Missouri.”
Juniors Rita Santillan (CF), Chloe Colvin (SS) and Whitney Kinser (3B), along with sophomore Alexa Hopkins (P) will also play pivotal roles in the Lady Mustang attack.
With plenty of depth on the roster and only a few open positions, the competition for playing time will only help the team.
“We are in a good position to have quite a few players with experience vying for a couple open positions, especially in the outfield,” Rawlins said.
Caitlin Hall, Kaylee Eberley and Kristin Cornell could all challenge for spots in the lineup, and freshman Madeline McCall is slated to help McDonald County both in the circle and at the plate.
“We feel our team speed is some of the best we’ve had in a while,” Rawlins said. “With that speed and some of the power we have in the middle of our lineup, we have a good mix. We’ll look to see our hitters evolve over the season and, hopefully, we can find a spot for them to be successful.”
With high expectations each season, Rawlins expects the Lady Mustangs to again challenge in both the Big 8 Conference and Class 4 District 12 tournament.
“Every year we try to do a few different things,” Rawlins said. “We want to put ourselves in a situation to win a conference championship, district championship, and then see if we can play our best softball and see where it takes us.”
McDonald County opens its season at Joplin Aug. 27.