Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Stockton Lady Tigers compiled a 9-10 record last season.
This season, they eye a district championship after finishing runner-up to Liberal in the district championship game last year.
To say the team is restless for a little bit of redemption is a vast understatement.
The Tigers graduated two primary players off last year’s team: Harly Gray — a four-year starter at shortstop — and catcher Lauren Rhodes.
Pitcher Kaitlyn Creek is not scheduled to play due to her offseason volleyball commitment, so that is one hole to fill for head coach Lisa Kenney, who enters her fifth year as Stockton head coach.
But returning are vital pieces to the 2019 puzzle for Kenney: offering a solid balance throughout the roster.
First, catcher Amie Garver: “Great instincts and a great hitter,” Kenney said of Garver.
Garver crushed her way to a .485 average last spring.
Kaytlynn Millard also returns for her senior campaign.
Millard will key and help align the outfield in ’19, as she once more will find solid footing in centerfield.
“She has a great arm and even more range,” Kenney said of Millard.
To round out the senior class, Alina Roberts will also set up shop in the outfield.
Roberts was instrumental in the offseason program and should see added benefits this season.
“Alina will be hitting and seeing outfield time. She has put in time,” said Kenney.
Freshman Lyndsey Gire and Abby Flora both will spend time in the circle this spring.
“I think they both are young, but they throw really well,” Kenney said of the duo. “I think by mid to the end of the season we will be rolling.”
While some teams may be hesitant to start a freshman pitcher or two, Gire and Flora are exceptions to the rule, and having two new arms waiting to put their stamps on the program is a nice luxury for Kenney and company.
Said Kenney: “They both have played some travel ball, so they have been in a lot of games and have thrown a lot of games. Even though they are freshmen, they both are highly-competitive girls. Not only pitching, but they both are going to bring loaded bats with them. That will certainly help out our program. It is a good freshman class.”
Sophomore Jenna Rickman figures to replace Gray at shortstop.
Rickman authored a .367 average last season.
“She is very athletic,” said Kenney.
Junior Cassidy Duncan bashed .333 last season.
Kenney said of Duncan: “A great athlete. She works hard every day.”
The mixture of seasoned veterans and those getting their feet wet in varsity softball is a solid precursor to this season and years to come.
With the March 16 Strafford Lady Indians Softball Invitational around the corner, Kenney said she’ll finally be able to see all cylinders firing against elite competition.
“That first tournament, our conference is a tough conference,” said Kenney. “Any teams that we are playing more than once or twice in conference play, your team is going to be that much better because of the higher level of competition. I would play those types of tournaments all I could to get ready for districts.”
The field at Strafford includes the entire Mid-Lakes Conference — Clever, Fair Grove, Stockton, Skyline, Forsyth, and Strafford.
“You know what Strafford has. You know what Fair Grove has. There’s just so many good teams. We are ready for softball season,” said Kenney.
After the tournament, the Lady Tigers travel to Liberal on March 18.
Added Kenney: “I know they graduated a bunch of kids, [but] I know they will be just as good.”