By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HEAD COACH: Tyler Dinsdale
2017 RECORD: 21-10
2017 POSTSEASON: SECTIONALS: Lost 21-5 to Blue Springs South
Three consecutive 20-win seasons for the Lakers should turn into four this fall. Camdenton returns one all-state selection, two all-region picks and six all-district players from last year’s 21-win team that won yet another district title but was eliminated in sectionals by a Team Who Must Not be Named.
With all that familiarity comes change at the top step of the dugout with Tyler Dinsdale taking over as head coach for Rick Calbert after multiple seasons as an assistant.
“I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to take over,” Dinsdale said. “The last couple years Rick has let me take the reins on a few things to make the transition easier. We’ve got a really good group that’s going to help that process a little bit too. I’m hoping for a seamless position.”
The Lakers all-state returner is Shelby Webster. The senior left-side infielder is one of Missouri’s elite defenders and possesses one of the truly dangerous bats in southwest Missouri after putting up these numbers in 2017: .546 AVG., 53 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 38 R, 37 RBI, 1.575 OPS.
“Shelby is the type of player every coach wishes they have,” Dinsdale said of the Truman State University commit. “She can hit for power, average and can be plugged in at any position and she’ll be ready to succeed.”
Then there’s pitcher Hailie Farris, who burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2016 and, like Webster, has become one of the region’s best. The first-team all-region pick struck out 190 in 127.2 innings last year, finishing with a 3.40 ERA.
“Strikeouts are her thing,” Dinsdale said. “She pumps it in at a high speed (60+ MPH). She can locate. Has a good changeup and a good drop ball. We’re able to get batters guessing on what’s going to come next.”
A big part of Farris’s success on the mound comes from a relationship with fellow senior and catcher Fayth Rakes that goes back a decade.
“They came to us at the beginning of camp this summer and wondered if they could start calling pitches,” Dinsdale said. “Usually we do pitch calling from the dugout, but with their familiarity they wanted to take that step this year.
“Fayth’s really good at seeing stuff we don’t see. She can be a player/coach. Maybe they have a history playing against a girl and they know where to throw her. They know each other’s thinking and can tell what pitch to lean on. Two great athletes that are fun to watch.”
Farris does it with the bat too, hitting .476 with a 1.286 OPS in 2018 with 13 doubles and six homers that helped produce 44 RBIs.
A four-year starter and second-year captain, Rakes hit .415 last year and showed increased power with seven doubles and five dingers.
First-team all-district senior infielder Emma Uthe (.372 AVG., .932 OPS, 24 R, 18 RBIs): “Really good fielder and hitter. I feel like we can say the same thing about most of our girls. Can hit and has good pop.”
Second-team all-district senior 2B Sydney Jones (.388 AVG., .943 OPS, 22 R, 15 RBIs): “She has crazy speed. Fastest girl on our team. Can hit for average.”
Second-team all-district sophomore CF Emma Rakes (.394 AVG., .909 OPS, 28 R, 14 RBIs): “Good speed, contact and average. Her softball IQ is really high.”
1B Haley Wheat (.305 AVG.): “Really good defensively. She’s a converted shortstop who’s able to take that skill to first base.”
LF Raegan Waters: “Really athletic and good defensive mind. Might not look like she makes a lot of tough plays but that’s because how well she positions herself for each batter.”
RF/3B Kylie Moore: “Really good defensively. Hit really well as a freshman when we brought her up last year.”
Emma Rakes, Fayth Rakes, Farris and 2018 graduate Jillian Selander were recently a part of the USSSA Midwest 18A National Championship team, the Missouri Stealth. The Stealth are based out of Columbia. The event featured 45 teams from Texas to South Dakota. Farris was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.
Districts and They Who Shall Not Be Named
After consecutive seasons of falling to Blue Springs South in state sectionals, the Lakers have all but censored the school’s name from conversations. But silencing the name doesn’t mean getting over that hump isn’t on Camdenton’s mind.
“Getting past districts is the first thing on our plate. [What comes next] is a very sensitive subject,” Dinsdale said. “I would use Blue Springs South as a motivator, but that’s something we don’t even like to say. It’s like a curse word.”
The Lakers fell 21-5 to Class 4 runner-up Blue Springs South last season after dominating Willard and Lebanon in district play to a 21-1 differential. The year before was more competitive, but still a 7-3 loss to the Jaguars—the again eventual runner-ups.
But the 2018 Lakers could be the group to end the frustrations.
“I hate throwing lofty goals out there, but we should be very successful,” Dinsdale said. “We’ve had a very good summer. I’ve asked the girls to do a lot more than they have in the past. We had camp at the end of summer instead of beginning. Then our break and a good first week of practice. We’ve got higher expectations than we’ve had in the past, and we’ve had really high expectations in the past.