By Chris Parker
There are many talented softball players across our coverage area that features more than 60 teams. Below are some of the top softball players to watch this season
This watchlist can be found in print in the Fall O-Zone Preview Magazine available this week at all southwest Missouri Casey’s general stores.
Katie Brooks, Bolivar, Junior
Brooks is one of the area’s most-dominant two-way softball players. At the plate, Brooks hit .531 with a .980 slugging percentage. She tallied 52 total hits, including nine doubles, three triples and seven home runs to go with 39 runs and 45 RBIs. In the circle, Brooks went 16-6 overall with a 1.22 ERA and .863 WHIP. She registered 205 strikeouts and 32 walks in 136 innings pitched. She is verbally committed to Florida State.
Payton Drake, Norwood, Senior
Norwood advanced to the final four for the first time since 1991 last year, and Drake was a big reason why. Drake was the primary pitcher for the Lady Pirates, posting a 1.97 ERA and a 162/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. She went 18-8 overall. At the plate, she hit .417. This will be her third season as the varsity pitcher for Norwood.
Izzy Erickson, Reeds Spring, Senior
Erickson has been one of the area’s most-dominant softball players since her freshman year. She was named second-team all-state as a pitcher last year. The senior posted a 12-5 record with 230 strikeouts in the circle. At the plate, she hit .459, 8 home runs, 32 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. She is the reigning Big 8 Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Kaesha George, Monett, Senior
George is a three-sport star for the Lady Cubs. Last year, she was named second-team all-state in the outfield. She brings speed and a steady bat to the leadoff position. She hit .552 with 46 runs and a .577 on-base percentage last season. Her arm is one of the strongest in the state as evidenced by her back-to-back javelin state titles.
Emme Hall, Bolivar, Junior
Hall earned a second-team all-state nod in the outfield as a sophomore. She hit .457 (.658 slugging) with 12 extra-base hits, 42 runs and 23 RBIs. She also was 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts and had a flawless fielding percentage. Her range in the outfield is a huge asset for the Lady Liberators.
Chloe Merced, Kickapoo, Junior
Merced was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection in her sophomore season for her work as a shortstop. The junior did a little bit of everything at the plate in leading the Lady Chiefs in home runs (7), triples (4), runs scored (46), and slugging percentage (.825). On the base paths, Merced went 20-for-20 on stolen base attempts.
Kaitlyn Ragsdale, Republic, Junior
Just two area players were named first-team all-state in Missouri’s biggest class last year. Kaitlyn Ragsdale was one of those two players. She has started at shortstop for the Lady Tigers since she was a freshman. Ragsdale hit .500 with 23 RBIs and scored 44 runs as a sophomore.
Rayni Simons, Warsaw, Senior
Warsaw is at the very northern tip of our coverage area, but they are in the running to be our best Class 2 softball team. Rayni Simons is a big reason for that. She earned first-team all-state honors in the outfield as a junior. Simons hit .480 with 23 RBIs and seven doubles last year. She showed an incredible eye at the plate with 18 walks.
Others to Watch
Haidyn Berry, Webb City, Junior
Ellie Facklam, Kickapoo, Junior
Abby Ford, Ozark, Sophomore
Cat Ford, Branson, Senior
Faith Gilkey, Walnut Grove, Junior
Alexa Hopkins, McDonald County, Junior
Shelby Ince, Rogersville, Senior
Aubrie McRoberts, Warsaw, Senior
Makayla McVay, Walnut Grove, Junior
Kaia Storm, Webb City, Senior
Josie Sullivan, Norwood, Senior
Megan Weis, Republic, Senior