(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- An influx of talented young players has Sikeston High School softball coach Tiffany King excited about the future of the Lady Bulldogs' program.
When practice began Aug. 6, a total of 30 players were interested in playing softball for Sikeston, which compiled a 2-20 overall record in 2006. Aside from three upperclass players on the diamond, the Lady Bulldogs will feel the impact of 12 varsity players who are either a sophomore or a freshman.
"The impact of having so many young players on the varsity team will be that their spot is not guaranteed," King said. "Every day, they must put in hard work during practice and perform when they find themselves in a game."
Of the 15 players who are tabbed to play on Sikeston's varsity roster, King said 13 of them spent their summer participating in a youth softball program as a part of travelling teams.
grouped levels of travelling teams. And over the course of one summer, I can see a great amount of improvement in their softball skills."
To begin the season, sophomores Mary Deason and Krystal Henson have been platooned between the catching and shortstop positions. The rest of the infield features sophomore Kelsie Cooper at first base, junior Emilie Martin at third base and the combination of sophomore Mara Krokstrum or Courtney Collins at second base. Collins could likely spend time at second whenever Krokstrum is pitching.
Krokstrum was credited with both of Sikeston's victories in the pitcher's circle last season. Another candidate who could hurl some innings for the Lady Bulldogs in 2007 is freshman Sarah Hopson.
In the outfield, junior Kayla Scherer will be on patrol in left and senior Kaitlyn Turnbow will cover a vast amount of ground in center. The job in right field will be handled by either Emilie Martin, freshman Sydney Davied or sophomore Dezziraee Martin.
When Collins isn't holding down her position at second, she could spend some time as Sikeston's designated player. If Collins is on the diamond, then sophomore Jamie Reed will be in the lineup as the designated player for the Lady Bulldogs.
The top of the Sikeston batting order could feature Deason, who had a .404 on-base percentage in 2006, as the leadoff hitter. Turnbow, who led the Lady Bulldogs in on-base percentage (.458) last season might find herself in the second or third slot. Emilie Martin, who King said has a knack for moving runners along, will also be near the top for Sikeston.
One of the luxuries King has in 2007 is the ability to tinker with Sikeston's lineup. This was a luxury she didn't have last season.
"Last year, we lacked in numbers and I didn't have much of a choice of where some of the girls could play," King said. "This year, the the team is more versatile, which is going to be a lot easier for me because I'll have more options."
Even though the Sikeston roster has more depth, King realizes that having 12 underclass players means their experience level may cause the Lady Bulldogs to struggle at the start of the season.
"The game is going to move a little faster than what they are used to because many of these girls have never been in a varsity game. But through the course of the season, I think they will be able to adjust after getting some playing time," King said.
Sikeston's schedule in the early part of the season will be a definite challenge. The Lady Bulldogs open 2007 with seven consecutive road games before Sept. 5, when SHS hosts Kelly at 4 p.m. at the Sikeston Sports Complex. At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs travel to play Farmington in their season-opener.
King said, "The road games will give us a chance to bond, not only as a softball team, but it will also give the girls a great opportunity to get to know one-another and build friendships."
The road trip continues at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Perryville and at 4 p.m. Friday at Poplar Bluff. On Aug. 27, Sikeston plays at Fredricktown before visiting Chaffee on Aug. 28. During Labor Day weekend, the Lady Bulldogs play at the Notre Dame Invitational.