By Chris Parker
Norwood softball has big goals this year with eight returning starters from last season’s district championship team.
“Our strength should be our experience,” Norwood head coach Lori Drake said. “I think our battle for a district championship last fall will help us have confidence going into the postseason this year. The majority of our lineup will be third and fourth year starters.”
The Lady Pirates five returning upperclassmen who were all all-conference and all-district selections last year.
That group includes seniors Catelin Campbell, Annie Sullivan and Kylee Bradshaw along with juniors Hailey Hall and Cadence Jarrett. Campbell, a second baseman, led the team in batting average (.358) and on-base percentage (.452) last year. Sullivan, a first baseman, led the team in slugging percentage at .507 and RBI with 20. She earned all-region honors for her efforts. Bradshaw will catch. Hall will play third base. Jarrett will be in centerfield.
“These girls compete day in and day out,” Drake said. “They’ve worked for every success they’ve had and they bring grit, work ethic and encouragement.”
Freshman Maddie Campbell will step into the circle at pitcher. She takes the place of graduated four-year letterman and two-year starting pitcher Cassie Chadwell.
“Maddie Campbell will be taking over in the circle, and even though she is a freshman, she has played a lot of softball and is prepared to step in and be a major contributor this season,” Drake said. “Over the summer, Maddie, and versatile classmate Jayden Chambers, proved they can contribute right away.”
Sophomore Autumn Gunter rounds out the infield lineup at shortstop. Classmates Kinley Sinning (left field) and Natalee Lawson (right field) comprise the outfield.
Chambers (utility), Harlie Finch (senior DP), Brooke Johnson (junior OF/DP), Patience Guenther (courtesy runner), Katelynn Bennett (sophomore infield/DP), Gentry Davault (freshman 1B/DP), Dana Harden (sophomore OF/DP) and Lydia Harden (freshman OF/DP) are other varsity players.
“All of our players showed improvement this summer,” Drake said. “We played several games this June and pushed the girls hard. I was super impressed with their commitment to the program with their great attendance and how they showed consistency in their day to day play. I feel like we are over the hump of being a ‘young team’, we have age and experience on our side. Consistency will be our key to being better than the past two seasons.”
This will be Norwood’s last fall season, as the Lady Pirates will begin spring play in 2023.
“We are entering unknown territory with so many teams moving to spring,” Drake said. “We have a few new teams on our fall schedule. We will not compete for the conference title until the spring 2023 season, and we have no idea what districts will look like for us. But our goal is always to be competitive in conference and district play. We will prepare to be a contender in both.”
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Norwood will travel to Hillcrest for a jamboree on Aug. 19 with the host Hornets, Halfway and Reeds Spring. The Lady Pirates open the regular season on Aug. 26 at Parkview.
“Our players know they have to show up and play each game, there are no easy games,” Drake said. “Being consistent will be key. Last year, several players were in slumps the first half of the season and it took too long to turn things around. My hope is after our 30-plus game spring/summer schedule, we will see some maturity and not stay down long if/when a slump occurs.”