By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Billings Lady Wildcats commenced the 2018 season authoring three wins in as many games.
Then came a five-game losing skid en route to an 8-10 record.
This spring, head coach Randy Towe eyes more consistency throughout the campaign.
And losing only one senior starter in first baseman Hayley Moore produces a solid foundation on which to build.
Billings returns six starting seniors — and seven in all — which Towe hopes will play into the girls’ hands in ’19.
“Lots of experience coming back,” said Towe. “There’s nothing like a lot of experience. And for [the] girls, this will be their fourth year of varsity play. When you have that type of experience, that can kind of help out [with] the coaching part on those younger kids, [who] will learn a lot from the older kids.”
With the loss of Moore, first base is primarily the defensive hole to fill for Towe.
Returning are center fielder Jennifer Culver (led team with .500 average), third baseman Grace Seager (.271; led the team with 18 runs scored), sophomore pitcher Lizzie Edwards (8-10 record, while compiling a 92-to-57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.2 innings pitched, and a 6.7 ERA), and senior catcher Elizabeth Gearing (.420), to name a few.
Culver also led the way in RBI (18) and Edwards wasn’t too far behind with her 14.
This season, the Lady ‘Cats open the campaign at Miller High School: a familiar foe the Billings girls know quite well.
Billings defeated the Lady Cardinals 10-5 last spring.
Talent within the confines of the Southwest Central League continually strive for more — opposition such as Clever, Spokane, Southwest, and last year’s Class 1 District 10 champion — the Purdy Lady Eagles.
The Wildcats advanced to the Class 1 District 10 quarterfinals last season, prior to falling 10-0 to Purdy.
Finding that consistent attack — both offensively and defensively — is step one for Towe’s veteran team.
And players such as Culver, Gearing, Edwards, and Kiera Groves look to give the team a leg up in ’19.
“I think, this year, the whole thing I am after is to be able to compete with everybody we play,” said Towe. “Last year, we had a number of teams that had a really good team, and I want to be able to compete with those kind of teams. And, I think with that group of seniors, we ought to be able to do that — to hit some of the good pitching that we face.”
While the veteran leadership is a vital intangible this season, the ripple effect will find its way to the younger players: setting the table for seasons to come.
Billings hosts Bradleyville March 18 for its home opener.