The Booneville softball team found success this season like no season since 2004, and the Lady Cats saw seven of their players gain recognition for their efforts.
Heading the list were ninth-graders Ashdon Ross and Hannah McClung, who became the first Booneville freshmen of either gender to be named All-State. Teammates Brittany Ward, Marissa O’Neal, Morgan Osborne, Taylor Nichols and Kaitlynn Davis added to the Lady Cats’ award haul as they gained All-District honors.
Osborne gained an additional honor by being selected to participate in the Junior Classic. Held each summer, this serves as a showcase for the top juniors in the state.
Ross batted a team-high .485 for the season. She scored 34 runs on 48 hits while also driving in 12 runs and stealing 23 bases in 24 attempts. Further, Ross did not strike out in 106 plate appearances. In the circle, she finished with a 7-7 record, but her earned-run average was an excellent 1.81. She struck out 84 batters while walking just 16 and picked up a pair of saves along the way.
McClung sported a .438 batting average, but when the chips were down the Lady Cat catcher was at her best. With runners in scoring position, McClung batted .609 (25 for 41), driving in 30 runs. In all she had a school-record 31 RBIs and only struck out four times in 99 plate appearances. She also threw out 40 percent of the runners who tried to steal against her.
Ward finished off an incomparable multi-sport career by hitting .481 in 19 games before she had knee surgery. The senior drove in 18 runs and, despite the games missed, still shared the lead in doubles with 6. She was named All-District twice in three different sports during her career. After her surgery Ward continued to travel with the team and other players turned to her for inspiration.
O’Neal had a solid .300 batting average for the season but contributed heavily on the defensive side of the ledger. Starting out at second base, she moved over to shortstop and was solid in both positions. O’Neal batted at .300 or above all three years as a Lady Cat while playing a multitude of positions.
Osborne hit .351 for the season, improving her average 154 points over last season. She was second on the team with 19 RBIs and hit a pair of home runs, one in the park and one out. Osborne also stole 10 bases and was excellent in the outfield, including a defensive gem against Farmington that robbed the Lady Cards of a hit in a regional semifinal.
Nichols hit a home run against Cedarville but pitching was her real stock in trade. She compiled a 9-5 record with a solid 3.43 earned-run average while striking out 49 batters. When not pitching, she played second and third base to a good standard.
Davis whacked a pair of home runs—one in the regional semifinal—and also had six doubles to tie Ward for the lead in that department. She ended the season batting .350 with 15 runs batted in. Defensively she started out at first base but moved to third and did well in both places.
As a team the Lady Cats batted .346—nearly 100 points higher than last season—cranking out 255 base hits. The team earned-run average came in at 2.56 as Ross and Nichols combined to strike out 133 batters while only walking 45.
With five of the seven award-winners returning for next season and possibly some more talented freshmen-to-be coming in, the Lady Cats’ last stand in Class 4A next year has much promise to be a memorable season. Booneville softball looks to be once again coming of age and should be entertaining to watch for several years to come.