By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mountain Grove took second place in Class 1, District 7 last year behind Thayer after winning a district title the year before. Now Lori Hyde is ready to lead her 13-11 team back to the state playoffs as she returns all of her talented cast.
“Our numbers are better than we’ve ever had,” said Coach Hyde. “They seem to have a clear understanding of the game and the purpose for why we do the things we do, whether it’s bunt, hit away, or sacrifice. Our leadership from our juniors and sophomores have through the summer program given us some drive and a lot of success in the program. This year will be the first time since we have moved to spring ball that we’ll actually have a conference. Many of the softball teams in the SCA have jumped ship and moved to spring ball.”
“We’re hopefully looking to win that conference,” she added.
Senior all-state centerfielder Tommi Gardner batted .647, had a .676 on-base percentage, and led the team with 18 stolen bases last season. Gardner also made the all-district first team as an outfielder.
“She has a working combination of speed, throwing distance, and her instincts and reaction to the ball are key. Her vision for the entire field, depth perception, range of motion, and knowledge of the game and overall leadership are key to our success.”
Kadee Sheppard is a fellow senior who batted .412 and put up 13 RBIs in 2018. Named to the all-district first team as an infielder last season, when not on the mound, she will play third base. Sheppard also earned regional honors last season and is a sound player for the Lady Panthers. Her leadership will be an asset for the young team.
Senior Shelby Barnes (.320 average, .873 OPS) is a second baseman for the team and made the all-district second team last year.
Kennason Glenn is a speedy asset who will spend time behind the plate and possibly in the field.
“We will look for her to have good judgment on the base paths,” said Coach Hyde. The catcher made the all-district second team in 2018.
Haylee Stertz is a strong all-district utility player who can cover left field, shortstop, and third base, but per her coach, she’s more than just that.
“We will be looking for her bat,” said Hyde. “She was hitting the ball really well at the end of last year.”
Jenna Cantrell was clutch at the DH and may see time at first base.
“She hits and hits well,” said Coach Hyde. Junior Lorna Felker (.269) also had her fair share of hits and played shortstop and left field.
Last year, freshmen Trinity Elliott, Gracie Anderson, Alex Hicks, Kelsey Watson, Kylee Mullins, Kylee Sheppard, Ashlynn Davault, and Morgan Owens burst onto the scene, and now they are back with experience under their belts. Anderson was named to the all-district second team and is a talented southpaw pitcher. She had two wins as a pitcher in her debut season and put up a 3.28 ERA.
“I could write a book on each player’s success and strengths,” said Coach Hyde. “However, it is the combination of each individual player’s strengths that make our team, each and every player has an important role to fulfill on our team, each of equal importance to our success.”
“My girls are so much more than ball players to me, they are genuinely good, kind-hearted, academically sound, athletic young ladies who don’t mind getting dirty,” she added.
And a new slew of freshmen are out to play: Madison Emery, Claire Felker, Rileigh Holman, Gracelynn Richardson, Peyton Owens, Ariel Top, and Kaiya Walker.
Coach Hyde said her team is excited about an invitation they received to play at the University of Missouri on April 27 against Potosi, Strafford, and Central, all teams that were state-ranked last season.
“We are hoping to put a lot more W’s up this year than we have in the past,” said Coach Hyde. “Communication is key and we’re putting in the work to be where we want to be. We really look to be deep into the playoffs.”