There seems to be a buzz about the Booneville softball team’s practices. With many key players returning from a team that made the state tournament last season and a spate of talented newcomers, expectations are high. Booneville finished 16-12 last season, 5-1 in the conference, and coach Doc Crowley is expecting more.

The team had their Pink-Out intrasquad scrimmage last Tuesday and also scrimmaged Lavaca on Thursday.

The Lady Cats were scheduled to open their season Monday at Van Buren but that game was cancelled by the seemingly incessant winter weather. Games against Paris and Ozark may have to be rescheduled as well because their girls’ basketball teams have made the state tournament. The Lady Cats will play in the Clarksville tournament this weekend.

Two All-State and two All-District performers return for the Lady Cats. Their lone senior is outfielder Morgan Osborne (.351, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 10 SB in 2013). She was named All-District last season, made an outstanding diving catch against Farmington in the regional tournament and participated in the Junior Classic last summer.

The top pitcher is sophomore lefthander Ashdon Ross (7-7, 2 saves, 1.81 ERA, 84 strikeouts), who was named All-State. She was also a force at the plate, hitting .485 with 12 RBI and 23 stolen bases. Ross did not strike out as a batter last season and is expected to be the leadoff batter for the Lady Cats.

Hannah McClung (.438, 1 HR, 31 RBI) was also an All-State performer as a catcher last year, but will move primarily to shortstop for her sophomore season. She could also be called upon to pitch at times and might still see some action as catcher. McClung has a very live arm and should perform well wherever she is placed.

Another sophomore, Kaitlynn Davis (.350, 2 HR, 15 RBI) was named All-District while splitting time between first and third base on defense. She will be the regular third baseman for 2014 as classmate Carley Wooldridge takes over at first. Davis poled a two-run homer in the regional win against Farmington. Another sophomore, Alyssa Adair, could see action at first as well.

Right fielder Taylor Bauer also returns. A junior, Bauer proved to be very solid on defense last season and while her batting average was not high, her hits seemed to come at just the right time. Classmate Jaycie Rodatz, who was primarily a courtesy runner last season, will be the new left fielder. Another junior, Holley Maness, could see playing time in the outfield.

Incoming freshmen will again play a big role. Mariah Reagan will take over for McClung behind the plate and can also play at third, while Whitney Tatum, a fine pitcher, also makes her debut. Tatum will play second base when not in the circle. Camry Robertson is penciled in as the starting designated hitter and is also an infielder. First baseman Sabreena Alfaro, infielder Kristin Brown and outfielder Kelsey Herrera complete the influx of ninth-graders hoping to make an impact.

The Lady Cats are expected to be one of the favorites in the conference with their main competition, as it was last season, coming from Mena, Pottsville and Waldron. Booneville has scheduled a challenging non-conference slate including the prestigious Fayetteville/Farmington tournament. Optimism is high and it will be up to this Lady Cat team to deliver.