August 23, 2001
Youthful Lady Tigers Softball Team Aiming High In 2001
The Tri-Rivers Conference has earned a reputation as one of Missouri's finest softball leagues and 2001 may be the season that Scotland County R-I earns a bit of that recognition.
After battling some of the strongest competition in the state for years, SCR-I has a young team poised to makes its mark in 2001.
The Lady Tigers are coming off a solid performance in the Kirksville summer league and are looking to build on a solid 2000 season from one of the league's youngest teams. Last year SCR-I started just three seniors, meaning several young players had the opportunity to learn on the job at the varsity level.
Coach Dick Robinson is hoping that learning experience last year will benefit the squad as he returns to the diamond to lead SCR-I. Robinson is filling in for coach Andrea Dabney who is on leave from coaching after the birth of her son this summer.
Of course Robinson is no stranger to Lady Tiger fans as he coached SCR-I up until his retirement three years ago.
Because of the youth on the squad, Robinson will be dealing with lots of new faces, who entered the program after his retirement.
The team will be led by a pair of first team all-conference performers in pitcher Sara Eggleston and short stop Meagan Fromm.
Eggleston took the league by storm as a freshman as she helped turn the Lady Tigers into a contender with her performance and poise on the mound. The young hurler finished the season with a 9-11 record and a 1.78 ERA. That mark was even better in league play, where she allowed only 1.57 earned runs per outing against conference foes.
In 118 innings of work, Eggleston struck out 121 batters while walking just 37. She allowed just 76 hits, meaning she averaged well below one base runner per inning.
Nearly as big as her performance on the mound was the job the freshman did at the plate. She smacked the ball to the tune of a team-leading .426 batting average. She also was the team's leading base stealing threat and proved to be a force at the top of the order as she got on base at a regular clip and only struck out four times all year.
Just as important as Eggleston's arrival on the mound was the move for Fromm to shortstop. After pitching most of her freshman season, Fromm was able to move to shortstop where she served as the lynch pin of the SCR-I defense.
Fromm earned first team all-conference honors as much with her glove as she did with her bat. The later however was equally impressive as she hit .410 on the year. She was the team's leading run producer, finishing the year with 17 RBI.
Her defense, as well as that of the rest of the team will be a key to the success of the Lady Tigers in 2001. Last season the team allowed more unearned runs (35) than earned runs (30), meaning at least every other run scored against the team was due to a fielding error.
Robinson said that would be crucial to the team's improve-ment this season. He noted that the squad should benefit from another year of experience, which he hopes not only will tighten down the defense but will also make the girls more aggressive at the plate.
Fromm will team with her double-play combination from last year in Amy Blomme to give SCR-I a solid defensive presence up the middle. Blomme was named honorable mention all-conference last year after hitting .344 and committing just four errors to lead the defense.
The team also returns starting catcher Brandi Mallett, who along with Eggleston gave the team an all-freshman battery. The only missing link from the middle defensive group is centerfielder Morgan Wood who graduated last year. Wood was second team all-conference and truly solidified the outfield defense, an area where coach Robinson will have to fill some holes.
Another transition area is first base where senior Dawn Drummond was named honorable mention all-conference last year. She hit .306 last year at the top of the Lady Tigers line-up meaning the team will have to find some more run production in the line up in 2001.
Sophomores Jessie Cotton and Jenna Shalley both saw significant time at the varsity level last year as freshmen. Cotton played outfield and third base while Shalley got plenty of at bats as a designated hitter. Kate Schneider served as a speedy option off the bench and gives another option in the infield or outfield. She also has been working at catcher to add to her versatility.
Junior Brenna Cook handled the third base job last year and gives the team experience at the hot corner. She also has the athletic versatility to replace Wood in centerfield if Coach Robinson feels he needs a veteran to count on in the outfield. Fellow junior Jennifer Crawford looks like the leading candidate to fill the first base job vacated by Drummond.
While the returning cast is headed entirely by under-classmen, that doesn't mean the team won't have a senior presence. In fact the team will feature seven seniors. That crew is lead by Andrea Kirkpatrick who played shortstop at the junior varsity level last year and gives the team a versatile glove on the infield or in the outfield. Faith Woods, Lindsey Fincher, Jenny Stone, Sara Norton, Amanda Schmitz and Jenna Dial round out the senior group.
Coach Robinson said he saw plenty of improvement in the team in summer league play and was very impressed with the girls offense.
"They hit the ball really well over in the Kirksville league and that is something I have been emphasizing to them in practice. He said. "We are focusing on putting the ball in play and I have stressed that they must swing the bat."
Robinson said the team also has been focusing on execution, especially on the base paths.
"I've told them they are not going to die on the vine," he said. "When they head down to first base they have to keep their heads in the game because we are going to move them around the bases whether it be by the stolen base, hit-and-run or with a bunt. We're going to keep things rolling and not let the other team's defense relax."
The young, improving Lady Tigers have fans and coaching staff excited as well. Robinson said he would be disappointed if the team didn't move up in the league standings and at least finish in the top half of the conference.
While easier said than done, the conference did lose plenty of talent at the top last year headed by conference MVP Valerie Stelle of North Shelby. The league will be without her presence on the mound as well as other top hurlers Lacey Johnson of Putnam County and Cammie Sparks of Schuyler County.
Putnam County was 7-0 in the league and 22-3 last year en route to the state playoffs behind Johnson. Stelle led North Shelby to a 23-2 mark overall and 6-1 in the league as well as a Class 1A state playoff birth.
Clark County returns the strongest squad from last year. After finishing 17-6 and 5-2 in league play, the Lady Indians will be led this year by hurler Bradi Buford who may be the front runner for the MVP award. She will be joined by fellow first team all-conference performer Jessica Gregory. They give Clark County the lone returning duo of top performers to go along with SCR-I's tandem of Eggleston and Fromm.
To move up in the standings SCR-I will have to solve Knox County's Marcie McMahon. The junior hurler had the Lady Tigers number, beating SCR-I twice last year to account for two of just six wins for the 6-16 Eagles.
Despite the graduation losses, North Shelby and Putnam County will still be the teams to beat along with the Lady Indians. Both teams return a trio of the league's top performers. SCR-I will battle to move into that upper echelon of teams trying to bypass Knox County, Schuyler County and Brookfield, all teams that finished ahead of the sixth place SCR-I squad last year. Milan was the lone team to fall below Scotland County after going 0-7 in league play and just 2-18 on the year.
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