By Chris Parker
Wheatland failed to win double-digit games for the first time since 2015 last season. The Mules are poised to improve on last season’s eight-win total with four all-conference players returning.
Senior Kennedy Griffin and junior Taylor Hunt were both first-team all-conference selections last year. Griffin will see time at shortstop and pitcher. She threw 44 innings and struck out 44 in the circle. At the plate, Griffin hit .481 with 25 runs scored and 14 RBI. Hunt will see time at catcher, second base and shortstop. She led the team with 27 runs scored while driving in 21 runs and hitting .458.
Senior Sami Schultz (first base) and junior Heavenly Lewton (pitcher/shortstop/third base) were second-team all-conference selections. Schultz hit .381 with 20 RBI and 17 runs scored as a junior. Lewton will share pitching duties with Griffin after throwing a team-high 58 innings with 47 strikeouts. At the plate, Lewton was a force with a team-high 25 RBI.
Sophomore Avery Adcock along with freshmen Taylor Gant and Hannah Roberts could see time in the circle at pitcher. Adcock will also play third base while Gant and Roberts could find themselves anywhere around the infield. Freshman Chloe Pearson could see time behind the plate.
Kaleigh Gautieri will be a key outfielder in her junior year and could see time on the infield at first or third base. Roberts, Gant, Jasmine Baldwin (freshman) and Addie Antwiler (freshman) all could play anywhere in the outfield. Lewton, Adcock and Pearson also have the ability to play in the outfield.
“We have a lot of experience in our returners,” Wheatland head coach Pat Dougherty said. “They handle themselves well defensively, and have the ability to play multiple positions if needed. We also have some incoming freshmen that are athletic and skilled enough to make a big impact right away. We should be pretty decent offensively as well. Griffin, Hunt, Schultz, and Lewton all had big years at the plate last fall. I expect them to do the same this year as well. They are the big bats and should carry the load, but we should be solid 1-9 with girls that can hit, run and make a difference.”
Pitching and catching will be key for Wheatland finding success this year.
“Those are huge. There were ups and downs, but for the most part, I was pleased with the things I saw at these positions this summer,” Dougherty said. “If we can continue to improve and be consistent, we will be in good shape.”
Wheatland opens the season Aug. 28-29 at the Humansville Tournament.
“Expectations are fairly high,” Dougherty said. “We should be pretty competitive in a tough conference. Weaubleau, Halfway, and Walnut Grove are all going to be tough. From top to bottom though, there aren’t going to be any easy nights, but if we can throw strikes consistently, and play defense like I think we can, we will be up for the challenge.”