By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A new chapter of Monett softball begins this fall, but it’s far from a complete overhaul.
The Cubs, under a new head coach, will maintain some of their program staples: defense, hustle and aggressive base running.
“We are going to continue to focus on being the best defensive team we can, as that was a big reason for our success last year and the years before that,” said Monett’s new coach, Jami Bauer. “Another strength we will continue to have is our team speed.”
Bauer said Monett could have “one of the fastest (outfields) in the state” and will utilize that strength often.
“Hopefully that will work to our advantage (on defense),” Bauer said. “We will use our speed (on offense) to force the opposing defense to rush.”
Bauer comes over from Lamar, where she filled the same role with the Tigers last season.
A four-player senior class leads Monett: Kassie McCallister, Kaesha George, Amberlyn Schmidly and Ashley Kurima. All four hit .350 or better last season.
George, a two-time state champion in a javelin, is a multi-sport athlete who brings speed and a steady bat to the leadoff position. She hit .552 with 46 runs and a .577 on-base percentage last season.
She received First Team All-Big 8, first team all-region and Class 3 second team all-state honors last season.
Schmidly hit .410 with 32 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits. She was also a first team all-conference selection.
McCallister, an infielder, was a second team all-conference and second team all-region selection who hit .365 with 28 RBIs and 17 runs.
Kurima, an outfielder, tallied a .429 batting average with 17 RBIs and 10 RBIs. Bauer praised Kurima’s offseason improvement at the plate.
“I am looking forward to joining the team’s tradition and working with a great group of girls,” Bauer said. “We feel that with the returning players we have, and some of the younger girls coming in, that we are going to be very competitive again.”
Bauer replaces Ty Goetz, who resigned his coaching and teaching duties to become the assistant principal at Monett High School.
Goetz served as Monett’s head coach for 12 seasons and led the Cubs to six district championships, two final fours and a 2017 Class 3 state championship.
The Cubs finished 16-16 overall last season. They lost 15-14 to McDonald County in the Class 3 District 12 title game.
Monett graduated three starters in infielders Kelli McCallister and Katie Schmidt, along with outfielder Maddi Coones.
McCallister hit .398 and had 28 RBIs, 24 runs and 18 stolen bases. She earned first team all-conference and first team all-region honors.
Coones posted a .404 batting average to go with 11 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs, 29 runs and 12 steals. She was named first team all-conference and second team all-region.
Schmidt added a .230 average to go with 7 RBIs and 18 runs.
Five juniors could fill out Monett’s 2019 varsity lineup.
Abby McCaffrey (first base) and Taylor Southard (shortstop) will play the infield.
“Abby has done a great job at first base this summer,” Bauer said. “Taylor showed a lot of growth over the summer and continues to improve.”
Caitlyn Calhoun could pitch or play the infield, Bauer said.
Kate Huntress (second base, catcher) and Kim Parris (outfield) give Monett experienced depth.
“Kate continues to improve as a second baseman,” Bauer said. “She also split time at catcher over the summer and could battle for a position there.
“Kim is a great team player for us. She’s pushing for playing time in the field.”
Freshman Allyson Inman could see some varsity playing time in the outfield as well after a productive summer.
Monett opens the regular season August 30 at home versus Republic.
The Cubs will also compete in three regular seasons tournaments: the Ozark Fall Festival, the Springfield Invitational and the Carthage Invitational.
“Having the experience of playing in big games will only help us as we go through the season,” Bauer said.