By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Different sport, same expectations and standards.
Coming off a record-setting girls’ basketball season, Strafford will aim for a third straight spring softball state championship in 2019.
The Indians repeated as state softball champions last spring, defeating Park Hills Central 3-0 in the title game.
Strafford’s roster is again filled with multi-sport athletes who have had success in other sports.
“Our team has been built around some very important values which have helped them remain successful in all the sports that they have participated in throughout their careers,” said Strafford coach Dale Bean. “Those values are hard work, determination, focus, persistence and staying humble through the entire process.”
Strafford’s girls’ basketball team set the MSHSAA record for most consecutive wins earlier this year.
The softball team will enter the 2019 season on a 51-game winning streak. Overall, Strafford’s won 82 of its last 85 games.
Strafford returns six starters.
“After watching us play together over the summer a bit, I’m optimistic that by the end of the regular season we will be letting our overall team’s speed put pressure on teams, as well as letting our experience help us play poised and disciplined in most other areas of the game,” Bean said.
The Indians return a pair of all-state players in shortstop Hayley Frank and catcher Kayley Frank.
Hayley, who will play basketball at Mizzou next school year, hit over .500 with five homers, 36 RBIs and 44 runs last year.
“She will be looked upon to carry a heavy load as a team leader on offense and defense,” Bean said. “She will be anchoring the middle of the lineup and will be a very tough out for anyone we play.”
Kayley, who’s headed to College of the Ozarks for basketball, took over full-time catching duties last season and excelled there. She hit over .450 with one homer, 26 RBIs and 25 runs.
“Kayley adapted to the (catcher’s) job very quickly,” Bean said. “We will look to her to be a strong leader for us on the infield this year. We look for her to continue her heavy-hitting ways in the middle of our lineup, too.”
Also back for Strafford are second baseman Taylor Treat, center fielder Kaitlyn Vote, left fielder Logan Jones and designated hitter Paige Danielson.
Treat, a junior, hit in the No. 9 hole and finished with a .369 average plus one homer, 24 RBIs and 29 runs.
“In a batting order that was full of experience last year, Taylor was a very solid nine-hole for us,” Bean said. “We will look for her to move up a few slots in the batting order and continue to make improvements and gain confidence on the defensive side of the ball.”
Vote, a junior, brings speed to the leadoff spot and is a three-year starter.
“She has speed, plate discipline and tons of softball experience,” Bean said.
Jones, another junior, hit .378 with two homers, 24 RBIs and 39 runs from the two-hole spot.
“I’m very optimistic that Logan will be taking her game to the next level this season and cannot what to see her compete,” Bean said.
Danielson, a senior and the team’s designated hitter last season, hit nearly .300 with 18 RBIs and 14 runs. She also led Strafford in sacrifice bunts with four.
“She carries herself very nicely at the plate,” Bean said.
Strafford graduated three big pieces from its starting lineup. All three were first-team all-state selection.
Zoey Mullings was a four-year starter at pitcher. She’s now on the Drury basketball team and leaves a big void to fill at the plate and in the circle.
Alissa Collette was a first-team all-state selection as a utility player. She now plays softball at State Fair Community College in Sedalia.
“Alissa was a tremendous compliment to Zoey in the circle and covered some very important and tough innings for us that helped Zoey gain rest on some days throughout the season,” Bean said. “We will miss Alissa’s .600 batting average and tremendous fielding at third base.”
Left fielder Presley Floyd, another first-team all-state pick, is also playing at State Fair.
“Not having Presley in our or in the middle of our lineup will be a major adjustment we will have to make this season,” Bean said.
Juniors Emma Johnson (pitcher) and Kelsie Mayberry (outfield) along with senior Maria Comstock (DH/1B) were all varsity contributors last season.
Johnson will handle the bulk of pitching duties.
She was 17-0 as the JV’s starting pitcher over the last two seasons. She won both varsity starts last season.
“Emma has been pitching for a long time and she will be ready to pick up where we left off last year and use her experience to be successful in the circle,” Bean said.
Mayberry and Comstock each bring powerful bats to the plate, Bean said.
“Kelsie played in a few games last season and got her feet wet on the varsity level,” Bean said. “We’re excited to see what Kelsie will bring to the team this season. With her raw power and strength, she will be a force in our lineup.
“Maria will be looking to gain at-bats and reps at first base this season as a senior. She has a very good swing with power in it that could play her into some games this season and put her in the lineup.”
Returning players in the mix for varsity playing time include juniors Hannah Grayson and Emma Weaver, along with sophomores Emma Ivey and Kallie Whitlow.
Potential varsity newcomers include three freshmen: Bailey Chrisman, Racheal Grayson and Emma Mullings. Emma is the younger sister of Zoey.
“Emma is a very hard worker and has been waiting for her opportunity to shine one the field,” Bean said. “She pitches and has speed that can create success for herself on the bases.”
Junior Taylor Dormann, a move-in from Nebraska and another multi-sport athlete, is a wildcard with promise.
“We do not know a lot about her, but she has a very athletic build and made a very big difference on the basketball and volleyball courts,” Bean said.
Strafford begins the regular season March 16 at home in the Indians Invitational. The Indians will have their most experienced lineup in Bean’s tenure at the school.
“We’ve graduated some significant players not only last year but the last two years combined,” Bean said. “But we return a starting lineup with a majority of the starters being upperclassman, which is something that we have not been able to do since I have been at Strafford.
“I feel confident that we will be experienced enough to execute like we should in most of our games, but it will be a daily process at every practice to sharpen our strengths and understand our weaknesses.”