By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
McDonald County experienced a banner season in 2018, winning its second district title in four years.
The Lady Mustangs finished with a 24-5 record, falling to Bolivar in the sectional round.
“2018 was one of the best McDonald County softball has had,” said head coach Skyler Rawlins. “As always, we would have liked to go farther, but we lost to a good Bolivar team in the sectional. Last year’s team got better as the year progressed, and that is something we’re looking to build off of.”
A trio of graduates depart the program in Kylie Helm (.473 BA, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB), Kaylee Cornell and Leslie Yousey.
“Each of these seniors helped us get to where we wanted to be and continue to make our program successful,” Rawlins said.
Helm and Cornell will continue their respective softball careers at Mercer University and Allen Community College.
While Helm’s production at the catcher position won’t be easy to replace, McDonald County has plenty of returning firepower within its lineup.
The Lady Mustangs will be led by a quartet of returning players, including senior outfielder Rita Santillan (.344 BA, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 16 SB), senior infielder Whitney Kinser (.352 BA, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB), junior pitcher Alexa Hopkins (.364 BA, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 2 SB) and sophomore pitcher Madeline McCall (.265 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB).
Freshman catcher Megan Myrick is also expected to make an impact on the varsity roster.
While McDonald County’s offense will once again be dynamic and versatile at the plate, Rawlins believes pitching will be its strength this season.
“We have the core of our lineup returning that has speed and power if we can put it all together, but pitching would be our biggest strength,” Rawlins said “We have both returning starters in junior Alexa Hopkins and sophomore Madeline McCall.”
With Hopkins (13-0, 1.78 ERA, 63K, 106 IP) and McCall (8-4, 2.70 ERA, 110K, 83 IP) providing each providing a quality option in the circle, the Lady Mustangs will be able to keep both players fresh throughout the season.
With each pitcher benefitting from another year of experience, Rawlins plans to continue exploiting the varied styles.
“We feel like we have two aces,” Rawlins said. “Alexa is a ground ball and contact pitcher, and Madeline is more of a power strikeout pitcher. Both work effectively and move the ball around.”
For McDonald County to be successful and stage another postseason run this season, it will need to develop both chemistry and leadership early on, according to Rawlins.
“Like always we’ll have to get some new players acclimated to varsity playing time and get them comfortable to do what they can do,” Rawlins said. “As a coaching staff we’re still looking for someone to emerge as this team’s leader on and off the field.”
McDonald County opens its season Aug. 30 at Carthage.