By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Concerns out of Reeds Spring during the winter and spring about Izzy Erickson’s ailing right shoulder extended to the Lady Wolves’ opening night of action in the Branson Summer League.
Erickson, the reigning Ozark Sports Zone’s Fall Player of The Year, was held out of the center circle and instead played second base.
Reeds Spring’s pitching picture improved greatly the next week, as Erickson was back to throwing strikes. She threw with no pain and plenty of heat, re-sparking optimism for the Lady Wolves entering their foray into the Big Eight Conference.
“She did something late last season to her shoulder, nursed it a little bit and took some time off and did physical therapy,” coach Scott Walker said. “She was still experiencing some tightness, so we let her slowly get back in it.
“When she pitched (during summer league), her velocity was a little bit better, quite a bit better actually. She looked like she had a little more pop. Of course, she’s a year older. She has a real presence now.”
Indeed, Erickson has emerged into one of southwest Missouri’s most recognizable players after a banner sophomore season. She’s fresh from compiling 185 strikeouts and a 1.44 ERA over 113 innings . At the plate, she hit .570 with five triples and four home runs among her 17 extra-base hits. She accounted for 58 runs, totaling 29 runs scored and 29 RBIs.
She’s establishing quite a legacy and certainly isn’t simply known as the younger sister of Hannah Erickson, a former Reeds Spring standout herself.
“Izzy could go over 100 career hits this year and be in sight of breaking some career records,” Walker said. “As long as she stays healthy and we’re able to get our games in, she should get there.”
Erickson will do so from the leadoff spot in the Lady Wolves’ order, just as she did last year.
Walker isn’t worried about teams pitching around Erickson, noting her exceptional speed and the lineup’s depth.
“Are you going to walk a kid who can steal second and possibly third?” he said. “Also, you’ve got to be more selective pitching to the 7-8-9 kids when you’re got a leadoff hitter who can hit triples and home runs.
“We’re hoping we have 13 kids who can hit varsity pitching. The way we hit this summer absolutely impressed me.”
Reeds Spring returns eight starters from last season’s 15-9 bunch.
Catcher Maddison Cantrell and shortstop Courtney Scobee are among the leaders. Last year, Cantrell hit .387 and Scobee .345.
“(Cantrell) has worked herself into being quite an athletic catcher,” Walker said. “I’ve had more umpires compliment her athleticism and quickness than I’ve heard in a long time. She takes blocking the ball very seriously. And, her arm is phenomenally strong and accurate.
“Courtney is a four-year starter. She’s going to bat right around low- to mid-400. Over the last three years, her lowest batting average is .378.”
Right fielder Brooke Davis returns after hitting .415 last year and converted third baseman Victoria Scobee is back after batting .319 as a freshman second baseman.
“Victoria is making the move to third and is doing a great job,” Walker said. “She’s the only kid in our lineup who has played every position on the field during her career.’
Reeds Spring may again have a freshman at second in Lexi Essick.
“She may be as good a defensive second baseman as we’ve had,” Walker said. “That’s a lot to say about someone who hasn’t played an out of varsity softball, yet.”
The Lady Wolves also welcome back starters in first baseman Dusty Welch, center fielder Abby Rudd and left fielder Keeley Bauer.
Walker is counting on his team’s experience and depth to add up to immediate success in the Big 8.
“We won’t be able to take any games off in our conference. It will be interesting. Before, you could be sure of having a ‘W’ before you get off the bus. There’s not games like that anymore,” Walker said.