2022 Spring Preview: Pierce City Softball

By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)

Pierce City’s pitching from last season returns intact, with Mollie Beeson and Olivia Stanphill giving the Lady Eagles varied options to throw at opponents.

Both were eight-game winners, but that’s where the similarities end.

“Olivia and Mollie are really different types of pitchers,” coach Bobby Stackhouse said. “Mollie is what I would consider a power pitcher. She has the ability to rack up the strikeouts. Olivia relies more on hitting spots. She has great command of her pitches and does a great job of keeping hitters off balance.”

Beeson, a senior, was 8-5 with a 3.49 ERA last season and Stanphill, a junior, was 8-1 with a 2.38 ERA.

Stackhouse is optimistic the duo will improve under the tutelage of assistant coach Ragan Blinzler.

“Ragan does a great job of handling our pitchers,” Stackhouse said. “She has worked with them to help develop more pitches and understand the importance of hitting spots. She calls all the pitches during games and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our pitchers and our other players as well.”

Pierce City’s starting lineup from its 16-win team of a year ago also returns virtually intact. In addition to Beeson and Stanphill, returning starters include senior Riley Gripka, juniors Hailey Gripka, Atley Kleinman, Claudia Crowell, Trinity Witt and Jillian Mack and sophomore Juli Lowe.

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Expectations are high for the Lady Eagles.

“I’m excited about what we return,” said Stackhouse, who is in his second year at Pierce City. “We should be able to get a lot more done in practice, with the girls knowing the expectations and how we like to do things.

“It’s always interesting to see how a team will live up to expectations,” he added. “I hope it is something we can embrace as a team and have a desire to exceed those expectations. We also have to realize this is a different team this year (that) will face their own obstacles and challenges along the way. Hopefully, we will be able to keep things in perspective, stay focused on our team goals and work together to accomplish those goals.”

Beeson was named Class 2 All-State First-Team last year, after hitting .536 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. Her 27 extra-base hits also included 18 doubles and seven triples.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone like Mollie back,” Stackhouse said. “She is a phenomenal softball player, but an even better person. She will be a big part of what we are trying to accomplish. She does such a great job of staying in the moment. With the game on the line, there is no one I’d rather have at-bat or no one I would rather have the ball hit to.

“More than anything, I want her to enjoy her senior season,” he added. “If she can just stay within herself and trust her years of training, I know she will have success and put up big numbers once again.”

Outfielder Riley Gripka will serve as the spark to the Lady Eagles’ offense as their leadoff hitter. She burst upon the scene last year by hitting .443 with 32 runs scored.

“The best way to describe Riley is electric,” Stackhouse said. “There is nothing she can’t do on the softball field. When you think of five-tool player, she is what you think of. She can hit for power and average. She has speed. She can track down almost anything hit in the air. She has an extremely strong and accurate arm. She does a great job of getting on base at the top of our lineup. She puts pressure on the defense with her ability to steal bases. She is a very complete softball player. She is also a great leader in the dugout.”

Joining Beeson and Gripka on the All-Southwest First-Team last year was Mack. She batted .400 with 25 RBIs.

Lowe is coming off a freshman season in which she hit .420 with two home runs and 20 RBIs. Witt and Hailey Gripka both hit .300-plus.

“Because of the lost year (in 2020 due COVID), all our returners other than Beeson and Riley Gripka will be entering their second year of high school softball,” Stackhouse said. “I am most excited to see what type of strides they take from year one to year two. The hope is they are all a year better, a year stronger and a year more experienced where the game comes a little bit easier to them. It is a very talented group of girls and I am excited to see them display their talents.”

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