By Stephen Buus (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Stockton Lady Tigers softball team will not be able to afford to deal with many injuries in 2018 as coach Lisa Kenney reports a roster of eleven players total. Three of four players lost to graduation were starters, and a couple of other players from a year ago moved out of the district.
Stockton compiled an overall record of 8-12 last year, 2-3 in the Mid-Lakes Conference with one game against Marionville rained out. The Lady Tigers bowed to Liberal 8-0 in their district final on the Lady Bulldogs’ home field.
Seniors Harlly Gray and Lauren Rhodes will provide leadership for the Lady Tigers. “Gray has compiled a long list of awards at shortstop and has been the leadoff hitter since her freshman year,” said Kenney. “She will enter the pitching rotation for us.
“Rhodes, a returning all-district infielder, will move to anchor our defense behind the plate. She has a good bat.”
Gray and Rhodes are also the last two remnants of the 2015 Stockton team that finished fourth in the MSHSAA state spring softball tournament.
Amie Garver heads a junior class which also includes Kaytlyn Millard and Alena Roberts. Garver, who underwent surgery in the offseason for repair of her anterior cruciate ligament, “is back to par” according to Kenney. “She is strong at the plate and will pitch and play infield for us.”
Millard looks to replace all-conference, all-district, and all-regional outfielder Kenadee Cargill in center field. “She has a good arm and moves well,” said Kenney. Roberts is “a hard-working kid who’s very coachable” and will play a corner outfield position.
Hard-throwing sophomore Kaitlyn Creek will join Gray and Garver on the pitching staff. Kenney says Creek will also “be more aggressive offensively.” Classmate Katie Hendrick at second base will be playing her third sport of the school year. Kenney calls her “very competitive.”
A quartet of freshmen completes the Lady Tiger roster. Jenna Rickman, described by Kenney as “extremely athletic,” could play any number of positions. Callee Henson is competitive and has speed on the basepaths. Charity Clayton also is a speed merchant and could show versatility. Mikayla O’Connor has plenty of youth softball experience and is also capable of playing several positions.
The Lady Tigers open their season on March 17 at the Shelby Estep Memorial Tournament in Marionville. They also play in the Diamond Invitational on April 7. Stockton will host the District 12 tourney which will also include the likes of Bronaugh, Golden City, Greenfield, Liberal, Lockwood, Northeast Vernon County, and Sheldon. Before that, though, they’ll have to negotiate an always-tough Mid-Lakes Conference schedule; not to mention non-conference games with Archie, Butler, Purdy, Adrian, Pierce City, Mt. Vernon, Greenfield, Osceola, and Lockwood.