By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For Marshfield’s softball program, 2018 turned out to be a season full of adversity.
The Lady Jays finished 8-12, falling to Hillcrest in the district tournament opening round.
A new conference full of new locations and opponents made for a chaotic season, according to head coach Jessica Gorham.
“Joining the Big 8 Conference brought new challenges for us last season; adjusting to a new travel schedule and learning about new competition,” Gorham said, “Hopefully we can adjust a little better this year.”
A quartet of seniors depart the program due to graduation, including Izzy Harrison, Haleigh Clift, Camryn Smith and Courtney Duncan.
“Two of those seniors, Izzy Harrison and Haleigh Clift were all-conference and all-district players,” Gorham said. “Izzy played 3rd base & batted .300 last season. Haleigh was our catcher & batted .404. Izzy has signed & will play at SBU next year.”
Marshfield returns four starters to its roster and will be led by seniors Taylor Bird and Rileigh Clemons. Junior Zadie Bisby and sophomore Ally Harrison also return to the starting lineup.
Additional returnees for the Lady Jays include seniors Abby Swanigan, Reagan Rovig and Renee Watson. Junior Takiya Douglass, along with sophomores Hayleigh Cantrell, Macie Warren, Alissa Hughley, Alaura Padgett and Megan Petty also return to the squad.
Sophomore Kiana Massie will miss the season due to a torn ACL.
Freshman newcomers to the program include Morgan Green, Macie Vestal, Kirsten Ward and Rylee Wilson.
“We only have four returning starters, so the makeup of our team will look very different this fall,” Gorham said. “The key is obviously figuring out how the puzzle will fit together next fall, but I am extremely lucky in the fact that I have such commitment from the girls in the summer to get better, so I know we’re moving in the right direction.”
In the circle, Marshfield will turn to Swanigan, a transfer from Smithville, and Green.
Gorham believes her team chemistry and hard work over the summer will help make the Lady Jays more competitive heading into the season.
“More than anything we will need to be confident and headstrong on the mound,” Gorham said. “We have two pitchers on the mound that have the support of their defense behind them. We’re talking more and we’re communicating more, so those two things will lead to good things happening on defense.”
At the plate, Gorham will utilize Marshfield’s speed to help jump out to quick starts and early leads.
“I expect us to be aggressive on the base paths,” Gorham said. “We need to be able to put up runs early to take some of the stress off of our pitchers. I’ve seen good things this summer so hopefully that will carry over into season.”
With last season’s chaos behind her, Gorham is ready to use that experience as a learning tool and help her program continue its development.
“Last year was one of the most challenging of my career, and while it was difficult to get through at the time, you have to remain hopeful and know that you’re going to come out of it better on the other side,” Gorham said. “You learn a lot about yourself as a coach, you learn more about your team, and your players learn a lot about themselves, so I’m confident that we’re all better for what we went through last year & we’re going to take what we learned & put it to good use this fall.”
Marshfield opens its season Aug. 30 in the Morrisville Tournament.