By Chris Parker
These power rankings are a measurement of dominance within class and not a strictly head-to-head comparison. Coaches are encouraged to send any information, including stats, milestones and records to Chris Parker (email@example.com).
1. Bolivar (C3)
Bolivar returns all but one starter from last season’s 21-win, district champion squad that reached the Class 3 quarterfinals. Bolivar’s led by one of the area’s top players in junior pitcher/shortstop Katie Brooks. The Florida State commit earned second team all-state honors in 2018. At the plate, Brooks hit .531 and boasted 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. Emme Hall gives the Lady Liberators a second all-state selection to lean on. Hall, a second team all-state selection, hit .457 (.658 slugging) with 12 extra-base hits, 42 runs and 23 RBIs. She was also 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts and had a flawless fielding percentage. Brooks’ ability as a pitcher will give Bolivar a chance in every game.
2. Norwood (C1)
Norwood earned a trip to the Final Four for the first time since 1991 last season. The Lady Pirates were the area’s only representative in the softball final four last fall across all four classes. Three players did graduate from that squad, but senior pitcher Payton Drake (18-8, 1.97 ERA, 162/22 SO/BB ratio) does return to give the Lady Pirates a shot in every game. In total, Norwood returns three senior and three junior starters. Norwood has the postseason experience to get back to the final four and improve upon last year’s finish.
3. Warsaw (C2)
Warsaw is at the northern tip of our coverage area. The Lady Wildcats were one of the area’s most successful teams with a 23-4 record last year. They came up one game short of the final four losing to eventual state runner-up Blair Oaks. Six senior starters return for Warsaw this year. That includes all-state selections Aubrie McRoberts and Rayni Simmons. In the circle, Warsaw has not one but two all-conference pitchers returning in Kya Schepker and Kylee Fajen returning.
4. Republic (C4)
Republic must replace three players from last year’s district championship squad including the best power hitter in program history Julia Higgins who had 15 home runs and 60 RBI last year. All-State selection Kaitlyn Ragsdale returns to the top of the lineup after hitting .500 with 44 runs scored. Junior A.J. Fenske (.398 BA, 6 HR), junior Avery Romans (13-6, 119 innings), senior Megan Weis, senior Riley Laub and junior Emma White also return for Republic.
5. McDonald County (C3)
McDonald County will have to replace three seniors including one of the area’s best players in catcher Kylie Helm. 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). Hopkins (13-0, 1.78 ERA, 63K, 106 IP) and McCall (8-4, 2.70 ERA, 110K, 83 IP) each provide a quality option in the circle. The Lady Mustangs will be looking to win a second consecutive district title this season.
6. Reeds Spring (C3)
Reeds Spring has one of the area’s top three players leading the way in senior Izzy Erickson. The all-state selection was dominant at the plate and in the circle (.459 BA, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 23 SB, 12-5, 230K). The Big 8 Conference Pitcher of the Year is one of the most accomplished players in the program’s history, according to Coach Scott Walker. Erickson will be enough to keep Reeds Spring in almost every game, but the Lady Wolves go deeper than one player. Classmates Brooke Davis (.375 BA, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 6-1, 1.42 ERA) and Maddison Cantrell (.449 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBI) also return. Both players are closing in on 100 career hits.
7. Ozark (C4)
Ozark has won seven district titles in eight years. The Lady Tigers lost six starters from last season’s state quarterfinal squad. For Ozark, it is just a reload. Just three consistent starters return, but many other returning players saw time on the varsity level. Last season, Ozark stumbled out of the gate going 6-5 before finishing the season by going 17-5. It may take Ozark a little bit to get going again this year, but Coach Jimmy Nimmo always gets the most out of his squad.
8. Monett (C3)
Monett is two years removed from a state championship, and this year the Lady Cubs have a new head coach in Jami Bauer who was previously at Lamar. A four-player senior class leads Monett: Kassie McCallister, Kaesha George, Amberlyn Schmidly and Ashley Kurima. All four hit .350 or better last season. George, a two-time state champion in a javelin, is a multi-sport athlete who brings speed and a steady bat to the leadoff position. She hit .552 with 46 runs and a .577 on-base percentage last season. She received First Team All-Big 8, first team all-region and Class 3 second team all-state honors last season. Schmidly and McCallister were both first-team all-conference selections.
9. Kickapoo (C4)
Seven starters return for a Kickapoo squad that won 21 games a year ago. Those seven players are led by the junior duo of pitcher Ellie Facklam and shortstop Chloe Merced. In the circle, Ellie Facklam (142 IP, 19-6, 2.65 ERA, 72K) enters her third year on the varsity staff. Merced led the team in home runs (7), triples (4), runs scored (46), stolen bases (20/20) and slugging percentage (.825). The Lady Chiefs will be a strong offensive team poised for a run at a district title.
10. Walnut Grove (C1)
Walnut Grove plays one of the toughest schedules of an area Class 1 school. The Lady Tigers lost just two players from last season’s 17-win squad. The returning group includes junior all-state selections in Faith Gilkey (.483 BA, 8 HR, 30 RBI) and MaKayla McVay (.585 BA, 5 HR, 42 RBI). McVay will handle most of the pitching duties with Gilkey also seeing time in the circle. Walnut Grove was a district runner-up last season.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Webb City (C4), Halfway (C1), Nevada (C3), Rogersville (C3), Weaubleau (C1)