By Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Team: Clever Lady Jays
Coach: Cheryl Grant
2019 Results: 12-13 (Lost 7-1 to Purdy in Class 1 District 10 semifinals)
Opening Day 2021: March 20 in the MLC Tournament
The last time Clever took the field in an official MSHSAA game was May 2, 2019. Following the cancelled 2020 spring sports season, that stretch is finally coming to an end for teams across the Ozarks.
The Lady Jays won back-to-back district titles in 2015 and 2016 and have the potential to make a run back to that level with a young roster that saw only two seniors graduate after the 2019-20 school year and has only one senior this season.
The missing varsity year wasn’t an ideal situation for coach Cheryl Grant’s underclassmen, but the group has taken advantage of other competitive opportunities to continue their growth.
“We are very fortunate that several of our returning starters play on travel teams and we played together over the summer in a softball league,” Grant said. “Obviously, missing last season will impact our play, but I am very encouraged by the work the girls have put in this offseason.”
That offseason of hard work has really shown in Clever’s lone senior, pitcher Sierra Adkins.
“Sierra has worked tremendously hard on her pitching,” Grant said. “I am excited to see her in action this season. She has great control and I have high expectations for her this season.”
Adkins has signed to play college softball for Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri.
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2021 Roster Outlook
Joining Adkins is a group of 13 juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
The 2020 Ozarks Sports Zone Clever softball preview led off with a focus on who were then a pair of sophomores in OF Kenna Wise and P Kylie Wenger, both of whom Grant believes have the potential to be in the “elite group” of Southwest Missouri softball players.
Wise, who began a transition to infield last spring, batted an incredible .589 as a freshman in 2018 with a .659 on-base percentage and an .808 slugging percentage (1.467 OPS). That powerful slash line was met with blistering speed as Wise swiped 47 bases in her first varsity season.
On the mound, Wenger finished her freshman season with a 0.93 ERA and 133 strikeouts.
“Kenna and Kylie are both elite athletes and they are ready to play,” Grant said. “Kylie led the Lady Jays [in 2019] with six wins and 133 strikeouts in her freshman year on the mound. Kenna Wise comes back leading the team in her freshman year in six statistical categories.”
Returning with Wise and Wenger is a notable list of experience and depth that are as important to this program’s potential return to a district championship contender as anything else.
Clever returns more members of 2019’s roster in 3B G’Anna Reavis (.288 AVG, .319 OBP) and C Chloe Stidham.
“Reavis has strong knowledge of the game, a great bat and tremendous arm speed,” Grant said. “Stidham is a switch-hitter with a high game IQ who is incredibly fast with a great arm.”
Clever says hello to six varsity newcomers in OF Rylie King, OF Sydnee Thrasher, UTIL Anna Priebe, OF Savanna Ketcherside, INF Lindy Twigg and UTIL Amy Kozisek.
Grant also mentioned district newcomers Bree More, Karissa Keithley and Karli Hedge as a trio that could impact Clever’s season, and she’ll also keep an eye on her freshman class.
“I love the energy the girls bring to the game,” Grant said. “I can’t wait to see their excitement and interactions on the field. During the season there is always something to look forward to and something to work on. I missed that last year.”
2021 Season Outlook
Clever is scheduled to jamboree on March 15 at Purdy High School before opening its official season in the MLC Tournament on March 20.
Clever’s home opener is scheduled for March 29 against Marionville.
As usual, Clever will have no shortage of competition in the competitive Mid-Lakes Conference in addition to three challenging tournaments.
“We should be competitive in the Mid-Lakes this year,” Grant said. “We have some good younger athletic kids coming up. Post-season will be interesting as they are dividing the spring season with district and class assignments not being released yet. If we come together as a team we should have a run at postseason play.”