By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
2020 proved to be a rebuilding year for Branson’s softball program.
The Lady Pirates finished with a 9-19 record, falling to Neosho in the opening round of district play.
Head coach Josh McKee believes the challenges faced throughout the year will greatly benefit his team both on and off the field.
“During the 2020 season our kids learned how to deal with adversity throughout the season,” McKee said. “Our lineup would change from time to time, and we had a lot of new faces playing at the varsity level, so we had to learn as the season went how to handle success and fails throughout the season.”
With only a pair of graduated seniors moving on in Molly Smith and Bella Gavin, McKee has high expectations heading into the fall campaign.
“I think with our seniors and juniors – who have been playing at the varsity time for a while now – we could surprise a lot of people on our schedule now that they are older,” McKee said. “They will be a huge attribute on the field with getting the younger classes developed and helping guide them throughout the season.”
A quintet of seniors will lead the Lady Pirates this season, including outfielder/infielder Langley Miller (.321 BA), infielder/outfielder Leanne Rhoads, pitcher Peyton Bonsey, outfielder Chloe Grimm and first baseman Madison Good.
Miller and Rhodes are three-year starters for Branson, while both Grimm and Good are hoping to rebound from injuries. Bonsey returns as a two-year starter in the circle.
A trio of juniors also return to the lineup in shortstop Sierra Dailey (.456 BA), outfielder Ally Dicken (.313 BA) and catcher Anika Arjes.
Dailey, an all-conference and all-district selection, will also provide much-needed depth in the circle for Branson.
A strong freshman class consisting of Sadie Lampe, Lilly Bell, Jerzi Yacko, Jocelyn McQueen, Kaleah Morrison and Kendal Olsen will also compete for playing time this season.
With both experience and depth throughout the lineup, McKee believes his team can quickly mesh and develop throughout the season.
“Our expectations for this upcoming season is to compete on a day to day basis,” McKee said. “Our biggest difference maker this season is our depth at every position; we will have a bunch of girls competing at different spots and pushing each other each day.”
Following a jamboree in Bolivar with both Aurora and the host school, Branson is set to open its season Aug. 27 in the Aurora Kickoff Classic.