Lady Eagles Loaded With Talent; Open With 10-1 Win
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.
But, not so much with the Magnolia softball team. They seem to grow good softball players in New Martinsville. The Lady Blue Eagles have been to the regional finals the past several years and, this season, they look to make it all the way to the state tournament. There seems to be a bumper crop of talented players on this year’s team, even with the loss of some good quality players. The 2011 Lady Eagles have batters that can drive the ball with authority, pitchers that can deliver strikes and players who can field the ball smoothly and get it to the right bases.
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 Ritchie County, which knocked the Lady Eagles from another trip to the 2010 state championship with a 4-0 eight-inning pitching duel. These two teams appear to be headed in that same direction again this season.
But, MHS seventh-year Head Coach Mark Batton, who just coached a state championship football team, 24-8 last softball season. This year, he wants to take it one game at a time. And, if MHS is fortunate enough to face the Lady Rebels once more in the regional, and add another state championship, that would be icing on the cake.
Perhaps the best evidence is that Batton has his pitching ace back in Tori Tharp. Tharp was only a sophomore last season and fortified her position as one of the most dominant pitchers in the state. She has excellent control of her throws and can and will paint the corner with some added mustard. Tharp has won 26 games, struck out 414 batters, recorded 18 shutouts in only two seasons,. In addition, she had a mind-boggling .058 earned run average. At the plate, Tharp was just as dominant, hitting .359, smacking 14 doubles, while knocking in 20 RBIs.
It also helps to have veteran catcher Marissa Bosley and centerfielder Abby Horner back. Bosley was a second team all state pick a season ago. She hit .351 and not too many players tried to steal on this hard-nose catcher who has a Johnny Bench type arm and the savvy of a Pete Rose.
Horner is a three-year starter and had earned All-Valley recognition. She gets on base quite frequently, batting at a .340 clip, while blasting four home runs. She usually turns singles into doubles with her aggressive base running and heads-up softball savvy. Defensively, if she can get a glove on it she usually catches it and will keep opposing teams from trying to move up a base with her arm.
Magnolia lost only three blue-chippers to graduation from last season in Andrea Lockhart, Alexajo Hanna and Kelsey Heasley.
In the outfield, it looks to be senior Gabby Hostetler at right, where she is being challenged by Kennedy Slampak and Stephanie Mullett. Horner is at center, with Jessica Moore and Emily Clegg as potential backups. Emily Blake is back after a solid sophomore season and will hold down left field, backed up by Casey Greathouse and Brooke James.
Besides Tharp and Bosley, Dallas Mullett will be back at short stop and Jordan Babe will hold down the hot corner. Backing them up are Gauri Patel and Maghan Miller, respectively. Fighting for a starting spot at first are Mallory Chapman and Cassidi Wells. At second base, it looks like Makenzie Dawson will get the start with Jordan Grimm as her backup.
When Tharp isn’t on the mound you can figure it will be either Chapman or Clegg.
Magnolia doesn’t shy away from anyone and has one of the toughest schedules in the valley, facing teams like John Marshall, Parkersburg, Brooke, Union Local, Weir, Bellaire St. John, Wheeling Central, St. Clairsville and Union Local. The Lady Eagles also will do battle with local teams Tyler Consolidated, River and Cameron. In addition, they will host a tournament and will play in the annual Undo’s Tournament. The Lady Eagles will compete in the Myrtle Beach Classic in mid-April.
Batton and Assistant Coach Danny Anderson believe that this season’s team is up to the challenge and believe that this team has the talent to play with anybody. And, if they can get that key hit with players in scoring position, and Tharp continues to bring it from the mound, they have a good shot to bring home the bacon.
“We’ve got a great corps of veteran players and we will need to supplement that corps with some underclassmen,” said Batton. “I believe we can be very competitive as time goes on.”
Magnolia 10, Tyler 1
The Magnolia Blue Eagle Girls’ Softball Team started the 2011 season off on the right track with a mercy rule 10-1 victory over sectional rival Tyler Consolidated March 26 at Magnolia’s Hydro Field.
Hurler Tori Tharp scattered three singles and struck out nine, while not walking any Silver Knight batters.
Tyler Consolidated held the powerful Eagle batters in check for three innings, but the Lady Eagles took advantage of two errors and drilled six hits and scored seven runs in the next three frames to gain the nod.
Tharp and freshman Mallory Chapman led the Eagles with a single and a double each, while Abbey Horner added a single and just missed a home run by inches. Dallas Mullett and Emily Blake each cracked singles for the Lady Eagles. All but one Magnolia starter scored and all nine reached base safely.
Magnolia will tangle with Weir in Rider Country March 31 and John Marshall April 1 on the road. Eagles fans can catch them at home on April 4-5-6 against Wheeling Central, Brooke and Cameron, respectively, with 5 p.m. start times.