By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ava wasn’t happy calling last season a “rebuilding year.”
Forging forward after the loss of eight seniors and bringing back only two returning starters, the young team topped Mansfield in the Class 2, District 11 championship 11-10. The Lady Bears then fell to Sherwood in sectional play to end their season 17-9; Sherwood would go on to clench the Class 2 state title.
“They are young but athletic, with a good knowledge of the game,” said head coach Rex Sawyer.
Two graduated: Reagan Koop (left field) and Makayla Miller (right field). But the Lady Bears still return a host of experience for this season.
Senior Miquia Heinlein is a team leader and a good blocking catcher with skill at the plate. Classmate Devin Rowe, right field, is a speedy hitter for the team.
Julie Henry, junior, is also a team leader. The pitcher does a great job in the circle per her coach and also is a strong hitter.
Junior Macee Cutbirth started at infield and now transfers to second base. She moves well in the field and is skilled at the plate.
Teagan Snow took over the varsity first base position last year and did a great job digging balls there, said Coach Sawyer. The junior also possesses power at the plate.
“Olivia Gastineau is one of the best shortstops in the area,” said Coach Sawyer. “She’s a contact hitter and makes plays no one else can.” Gastineau started in the position last year as a freshman and returns with game experience.
Lexie Gastineau, sophomore, is a centerfielder with great speed in the outfield. “She’s a slap hitter that is hard to get out,” said Sawyer.
Sophomore Keeley Akers started at third base last season and returns to that role. She also serves as a power hitter for the team.
Sarah Mendel is good in the circle and will battle for a starting field position. The sophomore started last year as a pitcher and utility player.
Sophomore Kaelyn Stillings will also battle for a starting field position and is a talented utility player.
Outfielders Rayonna Garner (senior), Kaylee Springer (junior), Kylie Scrivner (sophomore), and Reagan Stillings (sophomore) also return. Sophomores McKinley Goss, catcher, and Ashlynn Nicol, third base, could also contribute, as well as a handful of incoming freshmen.
Ava is used to a tradition of excellence and will once again be ready to play.
“We hope to compete for another district championship,” said Sawyer.
The Lady Bears open their season September 1 at Gainesville.