By Chris Parker
Neosho softball came up one game short of a district championship last year falling 9-4 to Webb City in the district championship game.
First-team all-conference selection Tori Frazier one of the key graduates from that team. She was the Lady Wildcats lone first-team selection for her work as the lead-off hitter and in centerfield.
“Tori was and is a great softball player we will miss her in center field and as a lead-off batter,” head coach Catie Cummins said. “Her leadership, work ethic and attitude will be missed the most. But I know we will have a cast of girls that will look to fill those holes.”
Part of the returning cast includes Taylor Baker and Mikayla Long. Both players earned honorable mention all-conference honors last year.
Baker will return behind the plate to do the catching for Kyla Daspit.
“It’s huge to have Taylor back and our infield as well. Kyla and Taylor work well together. They both have that ‘go get it’ attitude where they continue to fight for each other. That matches well with Coach Williams, our pitching coach, because she is tough and has high expectations of them both,” Cummins said.
Brittany Winchester will pitch in relief this season.
Long will hold down third base once again this year and be a leader for the team.
“My expectations for Mikayla Long are to continue to grow as an infielder and a hitter. She has always been our most vocal player on the infield and we will look for her to continue in that role,” Cummins said. “In this offseason she has shown great improvement in strength and patience at the plate. She was showing signs of what we call ‘good aggressive’ at the plate.”
Seniors Amber Shepeard and Bre Slavens will return to the outfield for their senior seasons. Kayla Bach, Megan Geller, and Sierra Jones will help on the infield.
Maddie Carpenter, Kaitlyn Killion and Lili Graue are a freshmen trio that should factor into the varsity equation thanks to their speed and versatility.
Neosho came up just short of a district championship a year ago. This year Cummins wants to see her team take the next step and earn a trip into the playoffs.
“Our expectations are to win a conference and district championship. Getting a taste of the district championship game was huge for our girls and our program, but just getting their isn’t enough,” Cummins said.
Neosho opens the season on Aug. 27 at Cassville.