By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Big changes are in store for the Pleasant Hope softball program.
The Lady Pirates finished the 2017 fall season with a 15-12 record, falling in the district title game to Warsaw.
“The 2017 fall season was full of inconsistency,” head coach Kevin McVey said. “We struggled to score runs at times and at other times our defense would falter. Our goal each year is to win our district and to advance to the playoffs, so we didn’t meet our expectations. We did learn that, even though we may get down early in some games, we are able to regroup and put ourselves in a position to win a game.”
The Lady Pirates also played a shortened 2018 spring season, finishing 12-5.
This season, Pleasant Hope switches to the spring season and will join the new Southwest Conference, along with Lockwood, Pierce City, Sarcoxie, Marionville, Ash Grove, Diamond and Miller.
A host of returning starters are set to lead the Pleasant Hope on the field this season, including junior pitcher Jaydin Lee (14-11, 3.779 ERA, .304 BA, 18 RBI, 1 HR), junior catcher Lindsey Gettle (.361 BA, 19 RBI, 1 HR), senior second baseman Courtney Jenkins (.207 BA), senior shortstop Abby Henson (.443 BA, 32 RBI, 1 HR), sophomore third baseman Bailey Stokes (.491 BA, 15 RBI), senior center fielder Katelyn Stewart (.250 BA, 15 RBI), junior left fielder Janae Shirk (.375 BA, 10 RBI) and junior utility Macie Warner (.295 BA, 10 RBI).
The Lady Pirates also welcome several varsity newcomers that could immediately challenge for playing time in Lydia Dunaway, Keighlyn Johnson, Katelyn Bell, Alyssa Bell, Katie Chapman and Rachel Jenkins.
In the circle, Pleasant Hope will lean heavily on Lee this season, although McVey hopes to develop additional arms to ease the workload.
“We really only have one main pitcher and as she goes, we go,” McVey said. “We have a couple of girls that can pitch a game here or there, or throw some innings, but we will really lean on Jaydin in almost all of our games. I am hoping that someone can step up so that she doesn’t have to pitch every game.”
With a host of veteran starters returning, McVey feels expectations are high for this team as it enters its first complete spring campaign.
“We can be consistent at the plate and don’t have a lot of weak spots,” McVey said. “We have a lot of experience on this team but if we don’t work hard and play the way we are capable, we could end up not meeting our goal of winning a championship. Another thing that could be an obstacle is that this is our first “real” spring season. The last few years we have used it as practice, to get a lot of girls some varsity playing time. It’s different now and we have to make sure that we understand that.”
For Pleasant Hope to achieve its goals this season, it must first navigate a difficult conference and district schedule.
“Every season our goal is to reach the postseason and compete for a championship,” McVey said. “Being in a new conference and not sure yet what our district looks like, it’s kind of hard to predict how those will turn out. I have to figure that at some point we will play the reigning state champions Strafford if we hope to win a championship.”
Pleasant Hope opens its season March 18 in the Mt. Vernon Tournament.