By Chris Parker
There are many talented softball players across our coverage area. Below are some of the softball players to watch this season.
NOTE: The athletes are listed in alphabetical order.
Taylor Akers, Kickapoo Junior
Defense will be a strength for Kickapoo this year, and Akers’ ability to cover ground in the outfield will be key for that unit. Akers was named second-team all-conference and first-team all-region in the outfield last year after hitting .430 with a .490 on-base percentage with 18 RBI.
Keira Chrisco, Rolla Senior
Chrisco picked up Second-Team All-State honors as a catcher last year after she hit .513 with 40 hits, 31 RBI and a 1.090 OPS. She was also named First-Team All-Ozark Conference at catcher.
Cassidy Coambes, Rogersville Junior
Coambes is a foundational player on Rogersville’s infield at third base. She earned Class 3 First-Team All-State honors after she hit .420 with 12 doubles, 6 home runs, 36 RBI and scored 28 runs in her sophomore season.
Landry Cochran, Carthage Junior
Cochran is Carthage’s leadoff hitter, and she is one of the area’s best in that position. Last year, Cochran hit .451 with 46 total hits, 36 runs scored, 19 RBI and 12 stolen bases. She was named Second-Team All-Class 5 Region 3 and First-Team All-Central Ozark Conference.
Carlee Cooper, McDonald County Sophomore
Cooper was a star from Day 1 for McDonald County earning first-team all-conference, all-region and all-state honors on the infield. She hit .470 with 19 RBI as a freshman.
Sierra Dailey, Branson Junior
Dailey earned first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore playing shortstop for the Lady Pirates. She hit .456 with 41 base hits, 19 extra base hits that included 13 doubles 5 triples and a home run. The junior drove in 20 runs and scored 20 runs.
Naveah Dodson, McDonald County Sophomore
Dodson made an immediate impact last year as a freshman outfielder earning first-team all-conference, all-region and all-state honors. She hit .462 with 21 RBI. This year, she will add pitching duties to her plate as part of McDonald County’s staff.
Abby Ford, Ozark Senior
Ford missed last season with an injury, but is back and healthy this year. As a sophomore, Ford hit .478 on 43 total hits with 39 runs scored. She was also strong in the outfield with a 92% fielding percentage. She has committed to play collegiately at Missouri State.
McKaylie Forrest, Neosho Junior
Forrest is a key leader for Neosho softball behind the plate at catcher where she earned first-team all-region and second-team all-conference honors last year. In addition to her defensive prowess, Forrest hit .398 with 35 total hits, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 21 RBI, 23 runs scored and a .448 on-base percentage.
Phoebe Gardner, Nixa Junior
Gardner returns for her third year as Nixa’s starting shortstop. She earned second-team all-region and all-conference honors last season. Batting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Gardner hit .440 with 40 hits and 23 runs scored while striking out just two times.
Megan Hager, Rogersville Senior
Hager anchors the outfield for Rogersville in centerfield where she earned Class 3 First-Team All-State honors. The senior hit .417 with 17 stolen bases and 38 runs scored. Her defense in the outfield is also a huge asset, as she committed just one error last year.
Peyton Hawkins, Webb City Senior
Hawkins earned Class 4 First-Team All-State honors as an at-large player last year thanks to her stellar play at shortstop to go with her .429 batting average, 13 extra base hits and 44 runs scored. The Missouri Southern commit was also named First-Team All-COC.
Kaitlyn Killion, Neosho Senior
Killion brings it at the plate and in the field. Last year, Killion hit .400 on 38 total hits with four doubles, five triples, two home runs, 30 RBI and 28 runs scored. She had a .418 on-base percentage and .611 slugging percentage. Defensively, Killion had six assists from the outfield. She earned second-team all-conference honors for her efforts.
Jenna Lane, Rogersville Senior
Lane is one of the key leaders for Rogersville. The Class 3 Second-Team All-State catcher not only handles the duties behind the plate, but she also hits lead-off for Rogersville. Last year, Lane hit .387 with 13 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 20 RBI.
Kenna Mayfield, Ozark Senior
Mayfield, who is committed to Evangel University, was a Second-Team All-Class 5 Region 3 outfielder last year. She was also a first-team all-conference honoree thanks to her .458 batting average with 38 total hits and 32 runs scored in addition to posting a 94% fielding percentage in centerfield.
Madeline McCall, McDonald County Senior
McCall is one of the area’s most prolific strikeout pitchers after she struck out 196 batters in just 106 innings pitched last year. She will again be McDonald County’s No. 1 option in the circle who also brings offensive punch to the table. She hit .366 with 23 RBI last year.
Makenzie McCarter, Rolla Senior
Mackenzie McCarter earned second-team all-state honors as an infielder last season on the strength of her .458 batting average with 38 total hits, 28 RBI and a 1.078 OPS at the plate.
Avery McClure, Bolivar Senior
McClure is one of six returning seniors for Bolivar softball. She is a Class 4 First-Team All-Region shortstop who hit .339 with 5 home runs and 19 RBI last year.
Jenna McKenzie, Rogersville Senior
McKenzie is a key two-way player for Rogersville. She was a Class 3 Second-Team All-State pitcher on the strength of her 12-3 record with 74 strikeouts in 84 innings while posting a 2.56 ERA. At the plate, she hit .349 with 6 doubles and 21 RBI.
Maddie Meierer, Nixa Junior
Meierer will be one of the area’s top returning pitchers after she posted a 1.45 ERA with 158 strikeouts over 140 innings last year. She is also a force at the plate where she hit .412 with 2 home runs and 20 RBI. The Nixa junior earned first-team all-conference and first-team all-region honors.
Halle Miles, Rogersville Junior
If I was naming a pre-season Player of the Year for southwest Missouri, Miles would be it. She was the Big 8 Conference Pitcher and Player of the year last year after posting a 15-4 record with a 2.01 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched. At the plate, Miles hit .495 with 14 doubles, 9 home runs and 52 RBI. The junior was also named Class 3 First-Team All-State as a pitcher.
Karsyn Phillips, Glendale Junior
Phillips was a first-team all-conference, all-district and all-region infielder in her sophomore season. She hit .462 with 4 home runs and 32 RBI. Coach Jeff Mason described her as a “true five-tool softball player who can dominate the game in a variety of ways.”
Kate Pierce, Kickapoo Senior
Kickapoo graduated its top two pitchers from last season’s final four team, but the Lady Chiefs will still have stability with Pierce returning behind home plate. She hit .467 with 38 RBI and a .558 on-base percentage. She was named Class 5 First-Team All-Region catcher.
Ryley Ritchey, Willard Senior
Ritchey is a catcher and designated player for Willard. She earned first-team all-conference honors last season after she hit .426 with 26 RBI. Ritchey also brings good power to the plate as evidenced by her four home runs.
Natalie Rodriguez, Carthage Senior
Rodriguez, a Class 5 Second-Team All-Region infielder, was a strong hitter for the district runner-up Lady Tigers last season. She posted a .402 batting average with 31 runs scored and 25 RBI. Rodriguez was also a second-team all-conference selection.
Katie Schneider, Lebanon Senior
Lebanon has a new head coach this year, but senior Katie Schneider remains a constant for the Yellowjackets. She was a Class 5 Second-Team All-State catcher last year while earning Second-Team All-Ozark Conference honors.
Lauren Taylor, Marion C. Early Junior
MCE has high expectations this year and junior Lauren Taylor is one of the key players to helping realize those expectations. She was a first-team all-region infielder from her shortstop position last year after she hit .392 with 17 RBI and 22 stolen bases.
Emma Welch, Webb City Senior
Welch brings a potent bat to the table for Webb City along with stellar outfield defense. She was a Class 4 First-Team All-State and First-Team All-COC honoree last year. The senior hit .417 with 31 runs scored and 31 RBI.
Zoey Williams, West Plains Junior
Williams is a key cog for West Plains up the middle playing shortstop and at the plate. The junior was named first-team all-region as a utility player while earning second-team all-conference honors at the same spot. She hit .459 with 20 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Apryl Zeno, Nixa Senior
Zeno will provide an immediate boost to the Nixa lineup in her senior season. She was named Class 4 First-Team All-State as a catcher last year playing for Bolivar. The senior will also see time at third base this season.