By Chris Parker
Lebanon advanced to the Class 4 District 10 Championship game last season, but came up short in a 10-0 loss to Ozark Conference rival Camdenton in the title game.
The Lady Yellowjackets lose four all-conference players to graduation from that team.
“(We will miss) the tremendous leadership and huge amount of experience they brought to the team,” head coach Stanley Crum said. “60-percent of our offensive output was lost from this group and we will have to do our best to replace that. All of our seniors were starters last season so we have a lot of holes to fill defensively as well.”
Senior Kaylee Keen will be key to the success of Lebanon softball in the circle this season. She has been the starting pitcher for the Lady Yellowjackets for four seasons.
“Kaylee is crucial to our success this season,” Crum said. “With us being a much younger team this year, we will look to her to set the example and hold the younger girls accountable. When Kaylee is hitting her spots she is a very good Class 4 caliber pitcher, capable of holding teams to very few runs. If we can manage to score a few runs along the way, we could have a good season. Kaylee will hit in the cleanup spot this year and I expect her to be considered among the best in the Ozark Conference this season.”
Sophomore Nicole Truitt will be an integral player for Lebanon coming off a second-team all-conference season in the outfield last year.
“Nicole had a phenomenal freshman campaign for us last year. Her attitude, hustle, and willingness to do whatever it takes to be the best player she can be are the reasons she moved in to the starting lineup early last season and continued to improve throughout,” Crum said. “She has continued to improve during the offseason and has gotten faster, strengthened her throwing arm, and improved her offensive output. She has hit in the leadoff spot the entire summer and has produced above my expectations. Nicole will see time in the circle as well in order to find needed rest for Kaylee. Nicole has the potential to be an elite level player if she continues to maintain her great attitude and work ethic. She is already one of our team leaders although she will only be a sophomore.”
Senior Amanda Varble returns for her senior season after catching a majority of the games last year. Incoming freshman Katie Schneider and junior transfer from Conway Alli Welsh will also compete for time behind the plate.
Senior Emily Morque along with juniors Jessica Baker and Alayna Starnes will be factors in the outfield along with seniors Breken Johnson and Kaylee Zebel and freshman Hallie Ritchie.
Leslee Weddle will anchor the infield at shortstop in her senior season. Sophomore Nicole Truitt put in a lot of time at second base this summer and might share infield and outfield time with junior Jessica Baker and freshman Bailey Neff. Shelby Gibbs and Taylor Blankenship also should factor into the varsity equation.
Lebanon softball is on the rise with a new junior high program getting off the ground this past spring.
“My expectation for this team is to continue to raise the quality of the softball program at Lebanon High School. As long as we continue to improve I will be satisfied that we were successful,” Crum said. “With the addition of junior high softball this past spring we are heading in the right direction. We have some tremendous talent coming over the next four or five seasons and with the increased participation and interest in the softball program, I am highly optimistic about the future of the program.”
Lebanon opens the season on Aug. 24 at home against Stoutland.