By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Neosho softball’s upward trend continued in 2018.
Head coach Catie Cummins, in only her second year at the helm, helped guide the Lady Wildcats to a 15-10 record — the school’s first winning season since 2011.
“In the 2017 season, my first as a head coach, we went to the district championship,” Cummins said. “Our goal for last season was to get to the same place, but have a different outcome. Unfortunately, we lost in the first round of districts. With that being said we had a better record and surprised a few teams along the way.”
A trio of Lady Wildcats have graduated and moved on, including Amber Shepeard (.303 BA, 14 RBI), Bre Slavens (.328 BA, 3 HR, 17 RBI) and Taylor Baker (.380 BA, 1 HR, 23 RBI).
“Last year’s senior class accounted for much of our run production,” Cummins said. “We will look to others to fill that void.”
Neosho will be led by a pair of seniors in pitcher Kyla Daspit (13-7, 2.944 ERA, 83 SO, 126 IP) and third baseman Mikayla Long (8 HR, 26 RBI, 27 Runs).
Sophomore speedster Kaitlyn Killion (32 Hits, 9 SB) will patrol the outfield for the Lady Wildcats.
Junior shortstop Sierra Jones and senior infielders Kayla Bach and Megan Geller round out the returning varsity players.
With both talent and experience on the roster, Cummins feels her team is in a good spot to compete heading into the fall.
“With the exception of the catching position, we will return our whole infield with juniors and seniors,” Cummins said. “We have so many more options this season with more pitching, baserunners and pinch hitting. I believe we will be able to keep teams on their toes with changes in the lineup.”
A trio of varsity newcomers could make an impact this season, as well, including junior pitcher Brittany Winchester, freshman catcher McKaylie Forrest and freshman utility Trinity Drake.
With the luxury of depth, Cummins also has the ability to utilize players that might not be ready to challenge for positional spots in several different roles this season.
“Our freshman and sophomore classes, as a whole, bring speed to our team as well as the ability to pinch hit,” Cummins said. “There are several kids that will see time in baserunning situations as well as pinch hitting situations.”
In the circle, Daspit will resume her role as Neosho’s ace and be backed up by Winchester.
“Kyla and Brittany are down ball pitchers that will see get our defense a lot of ground balls,” Cummins said. “For us to be successful in the circle, we will want to keep our pitch count down to reduce the workload and of course always work ahead in the count.”
At the plate, Cummins and the Lady Wildcats have placed an emphasis on limiting inconsistencies that plagued the team at times last season.
“Last year when we got into trouble it was from lack of run production,” Cummins said. “We would get girls on base, but couldn’t push them across. This year that will be a focus of ours and I’d expect to see that. We are returning Lili Graue and Kaitlyn Killion that put pressure on defenses with their speed.”
Neosho opens its season at home Sep. 5 against Cassville.