By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A new face will be patrolling the Hartville dugout this season, as first-year head coach Karissa McNiel takes over for Mike Percival.
“My assistant coach, Hunter Simmons, and I have a very positive perception regarding this group of girls and the upcoming season,” McNiel said. “With both of us being new to the district and first-year softball coaches, we will be spending considerable time building our relationship with the girls as well as instilling in them the importance of a cohesive team unit and positive upperclassmen leadership.”
Hartville finished its 2018 campaign with an 8-13 record, falling to Willow Springs in the district semifinal round.
Five Lady Eagle seniors move on from graduation, including Victoria Keyston, Amanda Littlewood, Bryna Scurlock, Sabrina Lillard and Haylee Morgan.
A quartet of seniors return to lead Hartville this season in infielder/outfielder Grace Culver (.328 BA), infielder/pitcher Aubrey Hardcastle (.343 BA), outfielder Cayce Guillory (.377 BA) and outfielder Katrina Prock (.267 BA).
Junior infielder Carly Calton (.259 BA) and catcher Madie Vaugh (.478 BA) also return.
A pair of Lady Eagles will miss time due to injury. Senior Bailey Martin could return late in the schedule, while junior Chloe Uzzell will miss the entire season.
Hartville’s varsity newcomers include Abbie Brengle, Morgan Kelly, Shyla Jordan, Rami Murr, Molly Brown and Brey Flachsmann.
“I am very excited to be at Hartville and look forward to this new experience,” McNiel said. “This group has a great group of upperclassmen. We will focus on taking one day at a time, working hard every day, staying positive in the face of adversity, and stepping on the field ready to be competitors in every game we play.”
In the circle, Hartville will look to Hardcastle to anchor its pitching staff.
“[Hardcastle] has put some time in during the off season that has built her confidence on the mound,” McNiel said. “She realizes what her role is for this season and has accepted the challenge in a very admirable manner.”
Murr, Jordan and Flachsmann could also see time during the season.
Hartville opens its season at home Sep. 3 against Halfway.