By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Plato returns five starters from last year’s 18-win team.
“Last year, we had an up and down season,” Coach Ben Phillips said. “We started the year off losing 2 of our first 3 games. We had some injuries at the beginning of the year we had to make adjustments for. We found our stride, though, compiling 18 wins only to lose in the district semifinals to Fair Grove.”
The Lady Eagles were solid at the plate, averaging .357 as a team.
Phillips said newcomers include one senior, who returns after taking a year off, and eight freshmen who have put in the off-season work and are ready to fill the voids.
That senior is Allie Hall, who was a .300 hitter her sophomore year and caught every game. A smart and fast player, she will use her athleticism to nab a starting position again.
“I look for her to take one of the outfield spots and never look back,” said Phillips.
Senior Abbey Penley returns after putting up 22 RBIs and averaging .364 at the plate in her junior season. She’s a versatile player with a good glove and power at the plate, and per her coach, she’s one they will expect to step up for her team this year.
“She had good games and bad games last year, and as a senior, we need her to string together more good games.”
Kaitin Garrett is another returning senior, and “one of the most feared players in the area,” said Phillips. The pitcher was responsible for every win last season and had over 200 strikeouts.
“She is probably even better as a hitter, knocking out three home runs and hitting over .600 all the while seeing maybe a handful of pitches in the strike zone,” added Phillips. “As frustrating as that was, she is also fired up about getting knocked before the district championship last year and didn’t crack the all-state list.”
He said she is eager to prove she is one of the best players in the state. Garrett’s on-base percentage was .721 last season, and slugging percentage 1.255, adding to her impressive stat line.
Hannah Smith took her sophomore year off, but came out last year and proved reliable behind the plate. She returns there for her senior season.
“She also came on strong as a hitter at the end of the year,” said Phillips (.319 overall average). “Hopefully she can knock the rust off early and solidify a spot in the middle of our lineup.”
Junior Mackenzie Waters was a dependable outfielder last year and batted .327. She moves to the infield this year after a successful summer campaign playing shortstop.
“I am looking forward to seeing a big step up from her,” said Phillips.
Kennedy Hall was an all-district outfielder last year and hit leadoff for the Lady Eagles.
“This year, she has nobody returning beside her in the outfield, so she will have to cover a little more ground in the beginning of the year until we get two new outfielders acclimated,” said Phillips. He also noted the junior’s speed on the bases and thinks she could lead the team in stolen bases.
“We also have a ton of freshmen coming up to compete with three sophomores for four spots, so it will be exciting to see which of them can become everyday starters for us,” said Phillips.
The Lady Eagles will host Dixon to open their season March 15.
“We want to get back to the district championship, and if we stay healthy and focused, nothing can stop us,” said Phillips.