Lady Eagles Want To Take It One Game At A Time
High school softball, like every other sport, normally goes in cycles. One year, a school will clearly be a lot stronger than the rest. In another year, other teams will dominate with above average participants.
So it is with the Magnolia Softball Team, which has been to the Dance in three out of the last five seasons and it doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.
This year, there seems to be a bumper crop of talented players who can drive the ball with authority, approach speeds of 70 mph with underarm fastballs and field the ball smoothly.
In the past several seasons, the Eagles would be the clear-cut favorite in the region, considering the talent they return. However, this season, the Eagles appear to be neck-and-neck with Point Pleasant, which knocked the Lady Eagles from another trip to the 2007-08 state championship. The two teams appear to be headed in that same direction again this season.
But, MHS third-year Head Coach Mark Batton just wants to take it one game at a time. And, if they are fortunate enough to face the Lady Blacks once more in the regional, they will be locked in and ready to rock and roll.
Perhaps the best evidence is that Batton has his daughter, Brittany, Bree Carr, Corinne Murdock and Kelsi Heasley back, healthy and ready to make some noise. These four were consistent hitters that performed well all season.
Carr can be expected to be the lead-off batter and play at the short stop position. She makes good contact with the bat and, when on base, she can steal at any time. Batton hits with power and should bat in the cleanup slot, while Murdock and Heasley will go in front and behind her in the lineup to keep opposing pitchers from pitching around her. Batton will likely hold down the hot corner, while Murdock has a strong hold on first. Heasley will play in left field.
Although the Blue Eagles lost their number one pitcher, Tori Greene, to graduation last season, they still have some dependable arms including freshmen flame thrower Tori Tharp, senior Ashley Simmons and junior Alexa Jo Hanna.
Tharp, only a freshman, has excellent control of her pitches and can and will paint the corner with some added mustard. Simmons missed a lot of action at the mound with a broken hand last season, but still returned to help out at second base where she did quite well.
Jo Hanna, also a flame thrower, moved to the number two pitcher last season after Simmons’ injury and did quite well. She won some nice games from the mound and got a lot of confidence to boot.
But, as the pitching goes, so does the catching. Four-year starter Kayla Brill graduated. Not only was she dependable, she was like having a coach on the field. She is softball smart and worked well with all the pitchers. She earned accolades all four seasons in multiple sports at MHS and has continued her softball at Division I Moorehead State University.
Also lost to graduation was Cassie Neff, Alycia Hinerman, Michelle Snyder and Alexis Poddey. Hinerman was a furious competitor and will be missed a lot. She was the glue in center field, while Neff and Snyder held down the corners in the outfield and Poddey filled in anywhere on the field.
Anchoring the Lady Eagle infield this year will be Carr at shortstop and Batton at third. Simmons will take over at second and Murdock assume her position at first. Heasley and Lyndsay Miller look to hold down left field and right field, respectively. Abby Harlan and Abby Horner will compete for the other outfield position and help out where needed.
The catching duties looks to be a dogfight between freshman Marissa Bosley and sophomore Gabby Hostetler. They both have good strong arms. Bosley, who throws right handed, may have the edge over the lefty Hostetler.
With seven letterman back this season, the Eagles should, indeed, advance even farther than they have in the past.
Others competing for playing time include junior Andrea Lockhart; sophomores Heather Goddard, Hillary Malec and Austa McDougal; and freshmen Emily Blake, Makenzie Dawson, Ashleigh Forrester, Casey Greathouse, Maghan Miller, Dallas Mullett, Whitney O’Neil, Gauri Patel, Cassidy Wells and Tori Wells.
Magnolia may very well play the toughest schedule in the valley, facing such big school powers as John Marshall, Warren Local, Steubenville Central and Brooke. They will host a tournament during the season that will include Ravenswood, Williamstown, St. John, Parkersburg, John Marshall, Steubenville Central and Ritchie. Then, they also will face rivals Tyler Consolidated, Wheeling Central and River. In addition, the Eagles have scheduled contests with Monroe Central, Weir, Cameron, Williamstown and St. Marys.
Coaches Batton and Danny Anderson believe that this season team is up to the challenge and should get off to a better start than they last season with positive practices outside. They also believe this team has the talent to play with anybody and, if they can get that key hit with players in scoring position, they have a good shot to bring home the bacon.
If the Blue Eagles don’t come out of the gate as fast as they would like, don’t give up on them.
Their expectations are to focus on one game at a time and to finish very strong.
“We’ve got to be patient, and I’ve got to be patient, too,” Batton reminded himself. “We’ve got a great corps of veteran players and we will need to supplement that corps with some freshmen. I believe we can be very competitive as time goes on. We have good competition battles every where on the field.”