Branson, Mo. (Ozarks Sports Zone) -- The Branson softball team lost two key seniors to graduation: their second baseman, Christine Nevins and their four year starting catcher, Amanda Hinkle. The Lady Pirates will have leadership on the mound with returning four-year starter Hannah Johnson. Last season Johnson was voted first team all-conference and first team all-district.
Coach Mary Arnold said: “Hannah has proven she can be one of the best in the area.”
Also returning is junior Rachel Dickinson. Arnold said Dickinson would be moving from centerfield to shortstop this season in order to make the infield more solid. Junior Emily Calovich will be returning to first base.
“Emily has had a great summer and her hitting is getting better with every summer game we play.”
Molly O’Dell’s season ended during the Springfield Tournament last year, but she will return to right field this season.
Freshman Tino Stevens, Bri Presley, Ashley Forrest, Emma Miller and Ashley Carder will all look to make an impact on the team this season.
“We will have several young players pushing for starting positions,” Arnold said. “We could have as many as five freshman starting varsity before the season is over.”
Two key sophomores will also see playing time. Arnold said, Kinzee Penner handled the catching over the summer and Chelsea Weston will push for time at third.
Pitching will be a strength for the team, but the defense will have to step up and be ready to play every night, Arnold said. She also stated the team’s weakness is getting the big hit.
“We did struggle scoring in summer league, but finished the summer season on a strong note.”
The 10th – 12th grade Lady Pirates team finished the summer season 7-5. The 8th and 9th grade team finished 9-3.
Arnold said the team averaged 20 girls in weight training over the summer.
“I really like the makeup of this year’s team, because they are willing to work hard to try and get the job done.”
Last season the team went 17-12. They won the Branson Classic, placed second in the Buffalo Tournament and fifth in the Springfield Tournament. The team expects to improve on those wins this year and every game during the season.
“There is always a team from our conference in the state tournament,” said Arnold, “so we will have to grow up quickly to be able to compete. But the girls proved by coming to weights and skills that they are ready for the challenge.”
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