Two years ago the Booneville LadyCat softball team suffered through a major rebuilding phase in which they only won three games. Last year was much better; though they did not make regionals they did win 10 games and began to gain some respect back.
This season may be the payoff.
A bevy of talented freshmen join with those who have gone through those last two seasons and aspirations are high for the team in 2020.
The LadyCats opened the season at Dardanelle on Monday.
The next five games are at home, starting with a visit from Waldron tomorrow and the conference opener on Friday against Jessieville. Acorn and Atkins come to the Billy Kiersey Complex for games next Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Coach Ronnie Denton and assistant Chad Simpson head the team, which finished 10-11 overall and 5-9 in the conference last season, good for fifth place. The LadyCats won the Magazine Invitational last season, getting wins over highly-regarded teams from Lavaca and Hackett along the way, and will defend that tournament championship later this season.
The LadyCats will turn to two seniors for on-the-field leadership this season. Third baseman Shelby Posey whacked a team-record seven home runs and drove in 27 runs last season while batting .455, while center fielder Baylee Moses batted .316 with one home run and 12 RBI’s while making only one error in the field. Posey launched two home runs in a game against Magazine last season.
The primary pitcher will be sophomore Brooke Turner, who had a 4-3 record last season while striking out 41 batters. She also carried a batting average of .381 with 23 RBI’s. Should she get into difficulties, the LadyCats will rely on freshman Emily Suttles to back her up. While she doesn’t pitch as fast as Turner, Suttles relies on control to get the job done.
Last year’s other main pitcher, junior Brooklyn Zarlingo, will miss this season because of an ACL injury suffered during volleyball. She batted .397 with 19 RBI’s and 34 runs scored last season, including a memorable in-the-park grand slam against Two Rivers.
The infield looks to be very solid, with freshmen Layla Byrum at shortstop and Sara Ulmer at second tabbed to be in starting roles along with Posey at third and junior Brylee Washburn at first. Freshman Madison Crosby is also expected to get a lot of playing time.
Expected to join center fielder Moses in the outfield to start with are freshman Leigh Swint in left and sophomore Hayley Lunsford in right. Lunsford (.250 with 4 RBI last season) moves to the outfield from second base.
Catching Turner and Suttles will be sophomore Joleigh Tate (.291, 1 HR, 12 RBI last season). She was very solid behind the plate last season and whacked a home run in the LadyCats’ last game of the season last year at Perryville. She has a very capable backup in freshman Teagen McMaster.
With 23 girls on the roster, this gives the LadyCats the opportunity to get the rest of the roster valuable experience in JV games. Along with Crosby, Suttles and McMaster, infielders Megan Reid, Baylee Davis and Halee Villarreal along with outfielders Karmen Kent, Brooklyn Keeter, Sarah Grissom, Allison Scott, Marley Floyd, Amber Molliere and Trinitie Strabley fall into that category. Any of them could be tabbed as a pinch hitter, with several also possibly being courtesy runners, and of course if something happens they must be ready to play at a moment’s notice.
Many expect Booneville to be in the hunt for a regional berth this season, with Paris, Perryville, Atkins and Lamar being the main competition. Jessieville, Two Rivers and Fountain Lake cannot be overlooked though as any of them are capable of springing an upset on any given day.