MSHSAA announced on Monday, Mar. 16 that they would not be cancelling spring sports due to the Coronavirus. There will be delays to the start of the season and you can read the full MSHSAA release on spring sports by clicking here. Many area schools have called off classes and extracurricular activities through at least Apr. 3 and will reassess at that time. We will continue to post our spring previews. Please note that this preview was written before delays for the spring season were announced.
By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Marionville Lady Comets are itching to get back on the diamond.
And why not?
After all, a solid returning core and losing a mere pair to graduation are expanding the Comets’ smiles a bit more in 2020.
Gone are Alexus Buckert (P) and Madylon Davis (CF): both of whom were all-conference in 2019 prior to graduation.
Davis was a four-time all-conference, all-district player for the Comets.
To say she will be missed is a vast understatement.
“She was really a big offensive and defensive leader for us. I expect everyone else to be back, along with this year’s freshmen: Jaely Gray and Olivia Hopkins,” head coach Mark Estep said, who enters his fifth season at the helm and 27 years total at the high school.
Estep said his crew is amped and ready to roll for the 2020 campaign.
“I am really excited,” said Estep, whose Comets authored a 10-11 record in ’19.
The Comets fell to Purdy, 15-9, at last year’s Class 1 District 10 quarterfinals.
But, it’s the downtrodden moments one year ago that has ignited a spark throughout the offseason.
“We bring back a lot of offense and some pretty good defensive players,” said Estep. “Our pitching is going to be key, as it always is.”
Sophomore Hunter Forester takes over as the full-time hurler.
Forester hurled five games last season, with one start, going 11 innings with 18 Ks and four walks.
Buckert was the primary pitcher last season, going 5-5 in 113 innings with 70 Ks, 39 walks and a 5.05 ERA.
“She pitched a little bit for us last year, and quite a bit in junior varsity games,” Estep said of Forester. “She has been working hard all winter on the offseason program, and I am hoping for good things.”
The Lady Comets return four seniors this season, but the two freshmen are expected to step in and contribute from the onset.
Added Estep: “Outstanding players who have an opportunity to step right in and make a big impact.”
Last season, 10 players lettered: including Alyssa White, Bre Schapler, Chelsey Hupp, Colesie Inmon, Emma Barrickman, Hunter Forester, Katie Stafford, Kelsie Grimm, Lanie Williams and Madison Essary.
The team hit for a .343 average last season, with an .857 OPS.
Competition in the Southwest Conference will be hyped once again, Estep said.
“Pierce City always has a good program, and we all know the history that Pleasant Hope has had. It is going to be a tough conference. I really think we are going to compete,” Estep said. “I’m not going to make predictions. Offensively, we are going to be really strong.”
For Lady Comets fans, keep an eye on Gray.
“I have a freshman who played for us a little over the summer and played shortstop. Just has so much softball knowledge, which will allow us to play some [players at] other positions to make us stronger defensively. If we can throw strikes and play good defense, we are going to win a lot of ball games,” Estep said of Gray.
With only five upperclassmen, the freshmen duo are expected to balance out the attack this spring.
Of course, coming in and contributing as freshmen is never easy: no matter the sport.
Hopkins figures to compete for first base, Estep said.
“We have some other options there, too, so she will have to step up and show that she belongs there. She has a beautiful swing,” said Estep.
This season, the upperclassmen consist of: Kaylee Neveln (.345 average), Alyssa White (.435 OPS) , Kelsey Grimm (.373 average, .902 OPS), Morgan Barrickman (stats not available), and Katie Stafford (.463 average).