By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It will be the last hurrah for the Salem Lady Tigers’ fall softball program as they will move their season to the spring in 2022, starting with a partial schedule. Head coach Phil Karr will now start his fifth year with this group, who he will also coach in the spring before retirement.
Last year’s team went 14-9, ending their season in the district championship to future state champion Sullivan.
“I’ve been the head softball coach for four years, three of those in district with Sullivan…it would be nice to get away from Sullivan once in a while,” said Karr, laughing. “It makes expectations a lot tougher. But my expectation is that we compete.”
Coach Karr said it will be a tough task to return to the district championship game considering their losses; Reggie Parks, Grace Kunkel, Desirae Scott, and Tatum Hatridge will all be missed due to graduation, and Chloe Bonner was a two-time all-district standout who hit .536 last season but has now moved. The Lady Tigers will replace two starting outfielders.
“When making mistakes in the outfield, it results in extra base hits,” said Coach Karr, “so we have to develop outfielders quick. One goal is to make a solid outfield.”
Salem’s best bet at rebuilding a solid outfield is in senior Bella Jadwin, who returns to centerfield. “She has a great arm, a lot of speed, is a good defensive player, and a left-handed hitter. She can play shortstop if I need her to; she’s really versatile,” said Karr. When she’s not playing point guard on the basketball court, Jadwin is reliable at bat, slugging .444 last year. “I have the utmost confidence in her ability. She has battled injuries in the past and hasn’t always gotten to play the whole season, so hopefully she will stay healthy. We really need her production and defense,” he added.
Junior Savannah Manthey is an all-state track standout who reached the podium her sophomore year in the javelin, and she’s also a talented third baseman who made solid strides last season. Hitting .366 with four doubles, six homers, and leading the team in RBIs, she was a second-team all-district player. “Manthey brings a lot of power, a lot of runs, is an extra base-hitter, and proved a lot defensively last year,” said Karr. “We will need even more from her after losing Bonner, and she’s very capable.”
Denise Stoner will begin her fourth year of starting at catcher and was named to the all-district first team last season. She has also been the lead-off hitter for all four years and had 22 RBIs from that position. Stoner also hit .356, led the team in stolen bases, and rarely strikes out.
Junior Ashton Bowers starts at shortstop for the third year and also will serve as a backup pitcher. She hit .312 in 2020. “She has a lot of at-bats where she fouls and finds her way on,” said Karr, adding Bowers had 19 walks on the season with a .476 on-base percentage. “She has a good eye and is a really good athlete,” said Karr, noting she also starts for the basketball team. “She always gives a great effort and is the one who wants to stay and take extra ground balls and swings after practice. She’s a competitor.”
Kennedy Chapman will be expected to step up to fill the team’s losses in the outfield. The senior will likely cover left field and hit .250 last season even in minimal varsity playing time. “She’s a great kid, works hard, and her hitting has improved a lot,” said Coach Karr.
Andrea Bray returns to start at second base for the second year. She hit .242 in her first season as a varsity player with a .397 on-base percentage, walking 14 times. “She walked more than she struck out, which you don’t see much anymore,” said her coach.
Senior Micah Bobbitt was Salem’s number one pitcher last year and should be again this year. She went 10-5 with a 4.14 ERA. “She did a good job in her first year as starting varsity pitcher and is capable of bringing that ERA down,” said Karr. “Last year, she faced 473 batters and walked 23. She doesn’t bore our defenders, they are ready to play defense. Hopefully we can get an even better year out of her.”
Alexis Moore could start in the outfield and Kayla Howard could cover first base or contribute as an extra hitter. Both are seniors.
Brooke Mahurin transferred from Dixon late last year and will serve as an extra hitter or at first or third base.
The Lady Tigers started last season with quarantine issues and are hoping for a stronger start. “We have a good solid core with experience,” said Coach Karr. “We play a tough schedule early and started the year 2-7 but we didn’t get down,” he added. “We were 12-2 for our last 14 games. These seniors have been with me since their freshman year and are a very hard group who are ready to practice and don’t mess around. I push them as hard as I can so we are ready to go by district times, so I’m excited to see what we can do for them.”
“I really like these girls and wanted to coach them two times in the same year,” added Karr. “Whether we win or not, these are great kids.”
The Salem Lady Tigers open their season September 1 at St. James.