By Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Team: Mt. Vernon Mountaineers
Coach: Matt Schubert
2019 Results: 21-11 (Lost 5-4 to Kennett in Class 1 state semifinals)
Opening Day 2021: March 19 at Buffalo
Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Schubert has said that his program’s goal every year is to make it to the state championship game.
Over the course of seven seasons, the Mountaineers have had as much success as any team in getting close to and accomplishing that goal—Mt. Vernon won a state championship in 2016 and has twice made it to the semifinals (2014, ’19).
The Mountaineers looked more than prepared to make a run there again in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a cancellation of the spring sports season. But that cancelled season didn’t mean the Mountaineers were going to take a year off.
“We were able to play about 25 games together last summer,” Schubert said. “We used it as a time to let our 2020 players get some playing time so that the year was not totally lost for them, and we used it also to look ahead.”
Schubert used the time to move his roster around to find the right combination defensively and in the batting order, and he found some success that he hopes carries into 2021 and a return to the diamond—even with a relatively inexperienced roster.
“We will be inexperienced…but I think that a majority of the teams playing in the spring will be in the same boat,” Schubert said.
“I still feel that we will be able to compete for a district championship, and for the first time we will have a conference title to play for as there are now five Big 8 schools playing in the spring. I feel like we can compete for that title as well. We will have to be good defensively to compete for both.”
2021 Roster Outlook
Mt. Vernon has done a great job over the years in building a softball program with a lot of depth. Over the past four seasons, the Mountaineers have averaged 25 girls on the roster.
This year, that number stands at just 14.
“There have been a few girls who have decided to opt out or graduate early because of COVID-19,” Schubert said. “But this [smaller roster] is exciting for me because we will be able to work with each player more, and I think we will see quick improvement because of that.”
One of the Mountaineers newcomers in sophomore pitcher Harley Daniels, who Schubert described as an “ace-type pitcher” who will also hit third or fourth in the lineup.
“Harley has a good fastball and an assortment of other pitches to compliment it,” Schubert said. “She’s a power pitcher who can run it up and also has a power bat.”
Mt. Vernon’s senior leaders include Tasha Collins (INF/OF) and Kennley Weaver (C).
“Tasha was slated to start in left field last year but may make the most to first base this year,” Schubert said of Collins, who is expected to bat in the middle third of the lineup. “She’s very athletic, can really run and can play most positions.”
Weaver started 10 games as a sophomore in 2019 due to an injury to the team’s starter. She played well enough during that stretch to split time the rest of the year. She’ll be the primary catcher this season.
Juniors include Hadley Cornell (SS), Kylee Stockton (OF), Josey McChesney (CF) and Jessah Anderson (2B).
Cornell started at shortstop as a freshman in 2019, batting .302. She will bat leadoff in 2021. Stockton is expected to compete for an outfield spot and has good closing speed. Schubert praised Anderson’s glovework and speed in the field and the bases.
“McChesney has blossomed into a really good player since her freshman year,” Schubert said. “She has a good arm, good speed and can hit for power.”
Beyond Daniels, Mt. Vernon’s other newcomers include sophomore Allie Schubert (3B) and freshmen Payge Evans (INF/OF), Ally Burk (OF/INF), Molly Burk (OF), Ashlyn Matthews (P/1B), Gracie Estes (OF/INF) and Ruth Meyer (OF).
“Schubert had a good summer, finally settled at third base and shored up our defense there,” Schubert said. “She will be penciled into the No. 2 spot in the order. She’s a good contact hitter who can bunt and hit the ball into the gaps. Her power is also beginning to show.”
Schubert described Evans as the fastest player on the team and a good slapper at the plate. Burk was able to get her first varsity experience with the team last summer.
2021 Season Outlook
Mt. Vernon is scheduled to host a jamboree with Strafford, Mountain Grove and Thayer on March 16.
The Mountaineers open their season March 19 at Buffalo. Their home opener will come as hosts of the Mt. Vernon Tournament (3/22-3/26). The team is also scheduled to compete in the Adrian Tournament (4/16).
“We have had good attendance at our open gyms the past two months and the girls have gotten in some good work,” Schubert said. “I’m excited to get out and compete again as a group. We have a good time together and we work hard.”
If the Mountaineers can pull off a 26-win season, it will be the program’s (and Schubert’s) 150th win since its inaugural 2013 season.
Like programs throughout the country, Mt. Vernon will do its best to stay healthy and avoid any COVID-19 cancellations or quarantines this season.
“Just like the other sports we will take precautions of taking temps, spreading out and
dealing with the inevitable changes of the schedule that are sure to happen,” Schubert said.