By Chris Parker
Norwood softball has won four district titles in the past five years including a final four appearance in 2018. The Pirates finished 16-7 last year and won the Class 1 District 1 title before ending the season with a 7-1 loss to eventual final four participant Stoutland.
The Pirates had 15 total players last year and lost seven of them to graduation. Five of those seniors were starters including two-time all-state selections Payton Drake (pitcher) and Josie Sullivan (catcher).
“Even though we graduated a big class, we are returning a strong core of seasoned veterans who are used to winning. The four veterans are ready to lead this new team,” Norwood head coach Lori Drake said.
Rainy Jarrett (senior centerfield), Sierra Cornelison (senior infield/pitcher) and Keyera Cornelison (senior catcher/infield) will be team leaders this year. All three were first-team all-district selections last year. Jarrett had a .469 on-base percentage along with 25 runs scored, 18 RBI and 17 stolen bases. Sierra Cornelison had a .506 on-base percentage with 20 runs scored and 14 RBI. Keyera Cornelison posted a .418 on-base percentage with 21 runs scored and 19 RBI.
Junior Cassie Chadwell along with Sierra Cornelison will share the pitching duties. Chadwell, who will also play shortstop, played in all 23 games last year scoring 19 runs and posting a .380 on-base percentage.
Sophomore Kylee Bradshaw will see time behind the plate at catcher along with Keyera Cornelison.
Sophomores Annie Sullivan and Harlie Finch along with freshman Hailey Hall will see time on the infield this year. Sullivan played in 19 games last year posting a .418 on-base percentage with 15 RBI.
The outfield will be comprised of Jarrett, sophomore Catelin Campbell and freshmen Cadence Jarrett and Brooke Johnson.
“We will have a lot of new players and people in new positions. We will need everyone to learn fast. We plan to stress fundamentals daily to improve as quickly as we can to get ready for post-season,” Drake said.
Norwood will enter the season with a few less reps than normal as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring season along with much of the summer.
“Spring season is our practice season, so we lost out on 10-12 games and two months of practice. Anytime athletes have an extended break from their sport you worry about mindset and physical conditioning when you return. We were fortunate to play about five weeks this summer and were able to get in about 10 games,” Drake said.
Norwood has had sustained success over the past half-decade, which has the Pirates thinking reload over rebuild this season.
“Any time you graduate half your line-up, you have to be thinking it’s a rebuilding year, but we have high expectations for this team from what they showed us this summer,” Drake said. “They were dedicated, and that will pay off for us throughout the season if they continue to work hard and buy in to our program values.”
Norwood opens the season on Aug. 29 at Walnut Grove.