Posted: Wednesday, 07 August 2013 9:56AM

Branson softball hoping to find new ace pitcher

Branson, Mo. (  -- The Branson High School softball team will be one of the teams in the Central Ozark Conference-Large Division to keep an eye on as the 2013 campaign begins.

The Lady Pirates, who had a 13-14 record last year, upset the second-seeded Nixa Eagles to make the district finals. They fell to the Ozark Tigers, the eventual second-place finishers in Class 4, but will be looking to build on that success this year. 

Branson head coach, Mary Arnold, who begins her 20th season (15th at Branson), is very optimistic about the Lady Pirates program moving in the right direction. With assistant coaches Joe Poor and Kendra Scott helping, Branson will be looking to replace just one player.  That player, however, was pitcher Hannah Johnson, a three-time first team all-conference player who will be missed.

All is not lost, though, as the Lady Pirates return three players that received post-season honors: left fielder Molly O’Dell (all-conference and all-district), shortstop Emily Calovich (all-district) and Bri Presley (all-district). With Calovich at SS, Branson returns their entire infield, Chelsea Weston will play third, Avery Aulgur at first, Ashley Forrest at pitcher/second and behind the plate will be catcher Kinzee Penner.

Three sophomores, Tino Stevens, Emma Miller and Ashley Carder will be vying for varsity playing time.

“We have several younger teams that are now traveling and playing in the summer,” Arnold said. “They understand what it takes to play in the COC.  Our junior high teams are also helping to improve our program.”

In the COC-Large there are no easy games or bad teams, so Branson will have to be prepared to play every game. 

“We want to be back in the district championship game again,” Arnold said. “But we must improve every game.  Ashley Forrest has done an awesome job this summer in the circle for us. This summer we have proven that we can play good defense and keep ourselves in the game.”

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