Despite graduating four starters and returning just two seniors, the Scotland County softball team has it sites set higher than the 7-10 mark of a year ago thanks to an impressive youth movement and a wealth of pitching options for Coach Kim Small.
Senior Kaitlyn McMinn handled the pitching duties last year with back up from junior Kylee Stott. The team added a pair of freshman hurlers in Kina Billings and Hannah Anders who have experienced success and showed they can compete at the varsity level during preseason games.
“Three dominant varsity pitchers is a new luxury for me, but I’m very excited to see what all three can do this season,” said Small. “Things can always change as the season goes on but as for now I plan to do a rotation of all three girls for pitching. On the days they are not pitching they will be contributing to the team in other ways.”
McMinn and her battery mate, catcher Katie Feeney are the team’s lone seniors.
“I’m relying heavily on my two seniors this year when it comes to leadership on the team,” said Small. “I think Katie and Kaitlyn will be great leaders for the younger girls.”
The duo was the team’s top two hitters a year ago and will again be counted on to pace the offense. McMinn hit a team best .395 with pair of home runs and 13 RBIs. Feeney batted .368 with two home runs amd 16 runs scored.
The offense also returns Stott, who led the squad with 15 RBIs and Hannah Feeney who was tops on the team with 17 runs scored.
“I feel like we have a very solid one through nine lineup this year,” said Small. “We are bringing back girls who can put up some big numbers. We are also adding some great bats with Kina, Hanna, Abby Curry and Baileigh Phillips.”
Curry will take over at second base while Phillips will play at third or first base depending on the pitcher. Hannah Feeney will play shortstop when Billings is pitching and will revert back to her third base position otherwise, moving Phillips across the diamond where she will spell Jansen Alexander. Anders will play some right field when she is not pitching. Stott will take over in center field for Abby Blessing while Morgan Blessing will man left field where Kaylyn Anders was the starter in 2018.
“We are returning a majority of our starting lineup which is a big positive,” said Small. “The underclassmen have really stepped up big this summer. Hannah Feeney was a starter for me last year and will continue in that role. She is a player that you can put anywhere on the field and have success. She also brings a great bat to our offense. Alexander played very well this summer and will be playing 1st base and backup catcher.”
McMinn and Katie Feeney were all-district and all-conference performers a year ago and Coach Small said she is looking for even better things from the duo in 2019.
“I think my two seniors will be big contributors offensively and defensively this year,” said Small. “I’m also looking for big things to come from Kina and Hanna.”
The team will also feature some new faces in the dugout, where Small will once again be joined by her father, Don Miller, in an assistant coaching capacity as well as new assistant coach Lucas Riley.
“I’m very pleased with my coaching staff this year,” said Coach Small. “It’s always great to coach with my dad, and Coach Lucas will be a great addition. He’s very knowledgeable in the sport and the girls seem to respond positively to him.”
The team will look to replicate the post season run of fellow Lewis & Clark Conference schools Knox County and Salisbury, who both advanced to the Final Four a year ago.
The Lady Eagles will have to replace all conference hurler Katie Hamlin and infielders Tadym Mason and Sidney Miller in a quest to repeat as district champs. Salisbury looks to be the team to beat in the L&C, as the Panthers return all-conference performers Bryn Woolridge, Brooke Stefankiewicz, Abigail Gebhardt and Lizzy Bales. Marceline also has a strong returning cast to make up for the loss of Maycee Edgar, led by Abbey Kussman, Baylee Jobson, Jenna Elam, Kenzie Stahl and Ciarrah Bell.
The Lady Tigers will be in action August 28th in a preseason jamboree at Clark County along with Canton. SCR-I opens the regular season on September 5th hosting Clark County followed by a home game September 6th versus Fayette.