By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
Fresh from a 31-win season that saw Rolla reach the Class 4 state championship game, the Lady Bulldogs are hoping to ride the momentum they gained a year ago.
“Last year was very exciting. We had a tremendous year,” coach Kenny Hohe said. “It year was a great point for our program. Not only did our softball players, but a lot of athletes at Rolla showed we can be successful in any and every sport. Our athletes understand we are moving in the right direction.”
Hohe hops Rolla can continue its winning ways, after losing seven starters to graduation.
“Those seven starters were a huge part of our program the last four years,” he said. “We’ve got to regroup and get back at it.”
A good reason for optimism is Rolla returns junior Madison Hamby. She established herself as one of the best pitchers in southwest Missouri a year ago. She compiled a 25-6 W-L record with one save, to go along with 218 strikeouts and 83 walks over 194 innings to earn a unanimous All-Ozark Conference First-Team selection.
Hohe thinks Hamby has more potential to tap into, as she adds to her repertoire of pitches.
“She looks strong and ready to build off a tremendous sophomore campaign,” he said. “She throws in the low 60s with good movement. Her curve ball, she can throw it over any part of the plate. Her rise ball last year took her from where she was to being an upper-echelon Class 4 pitcher. The pitch she is developing is a changeup and if she can improve it, we feel like that will take her game to the next level.”
Rolla also welcomes back senior shortstop Taylor Heimbaugh. She hit .417 with 35 RBIs and 37 runs scored on her way to being named All-Ozark Conference First-Team and Class 4 All-State Second-Team a year ago.
“She hit fifth and lead-off last year,” Hohe said. “We envision her anywhere in the top three in the lineup this year.”
Outfielder Hailey Adams, catcher Taylor Bleckman, corner infielder Hannah Hoss, second baseman Adalie Lauth and outfielder Kiara Webber are all seniors ready to start for the first time.
“There are some good players in that group,” Hohe said. “They’ve waited their turn and put in the time and effort. This is their opportunity to show what they can do.”
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Other newcomers to Rolla’s lineup will include catcher/outfielder AJ Thurston, corner infielder Bristol Klossner and catcher/outfielder Abby Kreete.
“Bristol’s brothers were big athletes here and she is falling in line with them,” Hohe said, referring to Blaize and Gage Klossner. “As a pitcher, she’s coming along with her velocity and will be a solid No. 2 pitcher. We can see her hitting in the heart of the lineup. Abby is a tremendous athlete and strong defensive player.”
Hohe is looking forward to seeing the Lady Bulldogs’ progress over the course of the season.
“We can be very competitive. But it will take some time to get our feet wet,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go. There will be a learning curve and adjustment period. Hopefully, by the middle of the season we are locking in and moving along.”