August 18, 2005

Underclassmen May Hold Key To Lady Tigers Success in ‘05

Three of the better softball pitchers in the state of Missouri departed the Tri-Rivers conference with graduation last year. The Scotland County Lady Tigers’ hitters will be glad to bid adieu to Knox County’s Katie McMahon and league MVP Jackie Loughhead from Putnam County. But SCR-I will have to replace its own standout hurler, Rebecca Consbrock, who will be pitching for Central Methodist University.

Scotland County will try to take advantage of the league-wide youth movement, as a talented group of underclassmen likely will hold the key to the team’s success in 2005.

“I have 11 freshmen and seven sophomores out this year and plenty of them will be seeing varsity time,” said Coach Terri Slaughter who is entering her fourth season heading the program.

As pre-season practices wind down Coach Slaughter is faced with the difficult task of replacing an all-conference pitcher for the second consecutive season. Still she reports, she can’t help but be excited about her team in 2005.

“Pitching is going to be an important factor for every team this year,” Slaughter said. “We’ll be fine on the mound and I’d have to say this is the best group of bats I’ve ever had.”

The offense appears to be in good hands, but Slaughter pointed out that team defense will likely hold the key to the Lady Tigers’ success.

Junior Karra Small will take over on the mound after seeing limited varsity time last year. Coach Slaughter stated that Small has picked up a lot of experience this summer, pitching for the Kirksville Katz traveling team and should be ready to pick up right where Consbrock left off.

The team lost three key seniors to graduation along with Consbrock, Slaughter will have to find replacements at both second and third base as well as both corner outfield spots to replace Valerie Crawford, Jacqui Drummond and Ashley Ellison.

Despite the losses, the Lady Tigers have lots of veterans to rely on as they try to get over the hump in the district tourney and bring home a state playoff birth.

Shortstop Ali Fromm will return to anchor the infield for the final time as she enters her senior season. She has started all-four years for SCR-I, including the past two years in the middle of the infield.

Fellow senior Jamie Fuller moved between first and third base throughout the year in 2004 and will return to man either the hot corner or first base while providing a potent bat in the middle of the Lady Tigers lineup.

SCR-I had a youth movement up the middle in 2004, starting a freshman at catcher as well as in center field.

Kirsten Johnston proved more than capable of handling the key outfield spot and eventually moved into the leadoff role in the batting order.

Jessica Bair showed similar progress at the plate, where she moved up into the middle of the order as a key run producer. She was perfectly at home behind the plate as well as she proved to be one of the league better defensive backstops.

Coach Slaughter indicated that either Kellyn Wickert or Lacy Jack likely will get the call at second base. Both sophomores played middle infield at the JV level last year and also got some varsity experience.

Wickert could get the nod at first base or third base as well, allowing Fuller to settle into one defensive position. Johnston is another possibility at third base if Coach Slaughter can afford to give up her key speed and defense in the outfield.

Senior Monica Schmitz, who saw time in right field last year, is out for most of the year with a broken wrist. Slaughter said that sophomore Andrea Shelly likely will see time at one outfield spot. Senior Brandi Kapfer also will figure into the outfield platoon.

Senior Angie Bulen was the team’s designated hitter last year and Coach Slaughter will look for a way to get her bat into the line-up again in 2005. Kaela Cook is another sophomore that saw varsity time last year. The coach says not to count out the very talented freshman class, as the youngsters look poised to gain playtime at the top level as well.

“I have made my final decision on starters at a number of spots,” Slaughter said. “Our depth is so good, it’s simply tough to choose between two or three girls at several positions.”

While the league saw the departure of a number of key players, Clark County looks to have the heads up on the conference as all-league hurler Ashley Wallingford enters as the pre-season pick for the leagues MVP. The senior pitcher will lead a team that finished 5-2 in conference play and will be looking to unseat Putnam County as conference champs.

“Clark County, early on, looks like the team to beat in the conference,” Slaughter said. “That’s not looking past Putnam County, because even though they lost a lot, they always seem to be right there contending for another title.”

North Shelby and Milan could return their starting pitchers and be ready to try to move up the league standings in 2005.

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