Fair Grove, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- The Fair Grove softball Eagles are starting a new season with the most experienced team they have seen in three years. According to head coach Stacey Beckley, the Eagles went through a rebuilding phase when many of the team’s now-seniors were first coming onto the field three years ago. This, she says, will be a major factor in turning the team’s losing record from last season into a winning one this season.
“Last year we were 9-15, and I’m looking to turn that one around,” said Beckley. “I expect us to be 15-9 this year. We’re dreaming big, we’re looking for a district championship.”
Beckley, who was at a loss trying to think of some of Fair Grove’s district competitors, says the team’s real focus this year will be winning games in the conference. Last year, they did not have any conference wins, but many of their losses were one-run ball games. This year, they are hoping to bring their best against conference rivals like Strafford and Ash Grove.
“I always look forward to playing Strafford. Not only is it always good competition, but I’m friends with the coach over there. The girls sure do like to play each other,” Beckley said.
Last year Fair Grove graduated outfielders Ally O’Neil and McKayla Buckner. They also graduated third baseman Katie Heifel, who made first team all-district and second team all-conference.
In order to turn that win-loss record around, Fair Grove will be relying on players like first team all-district and second team all-conference junior Shelby Marrow who averaged .409 at the plate and totaled 23 stolen bases. Marrow is also the team’s starting pitcher. Another big hitter for the Eagles will be catcher McKenzie Williams (.369), also a junior.
“Shelby’s not a tiny girl. She’s really well built and a strong athlete. She gets great base hits, good jumps, she’s an all-around good player,” said Beckley.
Including Marrow and Williams, there will be seven total returning varsity players. McKayla Coddington will be returning this season as starting shortstop after having suffered an injury last season. Other infield positions will be filled by seniors JoJo Hudgings (3rd base) and Makayla Snider (2nd base), but, given the versatility of the players, fans might expect some rearranging.
Meanwhile, after having graduated two outfielders, the Eagles will be relying on center fielder Katie Kothenbeutel to bring the outfield together.
“Katie is going to be huge for us in the outfield,” said Beckley. “She has really kind of owned it this year. This summer she really took over that position. She’s a leader in the outfield."
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