EAST PRARIE -- Coach Steve Stokes "feels pretty positive" about the upcoming season for the East Prairie Lady Eagles fall softball team. "We've had our first week of practice and we've been hustling and working hard," Stokes said.
Hustle and hard work will be needed to make up for the key losses to graduation from last season. The Lady Eagles lost 3/4 of their infield, graduating all-conference standouts Megan Britt (first base), Mallory LaPlant (second base), and Madelyn Branam (shortstop), as well as outfielder Brittany Grigsby. The new look for the infield doesn't phase Coach Stokes."We have some girls who can step up and take those places," he said.
The Lady Eagles return a lot of experience. Junior all-conference catcher Hannah Lemons returns behind the plate. "She (Hannah Lemons) will be a big help behind the plate," Stokes said. "People won't run on her much. She will be a big key."
Senior third basemen Lydia Cartwright, who nabbed all-conference honors last year, will bring valuable experience to the new infield. All-district outfielder and junior Grace Swann returns and will see time at both center field and shortstop. Junior Rachel White and senior Adalyn Woodard will spilt the bulk of the pitching duty and see time in the middle infield when not on the mound.
"Rachel (White) and Adalyn (Woodard) will see most of the pitching duties, with some others seeing the mound, we look for them to step up and make an impact," Stokes said. Senior Blaire Peters returns at outfield and first base.
Stokes will look to his seniors and juniors to be leaders and mentors to his younger girls. "We have 12 freshmen and my older girls have really stepped up and been positive role models." Stokes will need contributions from sophomores Jennifer Nicholson (first base and pitcher) and Stephanie Morgan (outfield and second base).
Hitting the ball better is a focus for the Lady Eagles going into the season. "The biggest improvement we need to make as a team is hitting the ball," Stokes said. "Our defense will be fine, but we're really working on becoming better at hitting the ball."
Stokes will have a lot of depth to draw from. "We have 21 girls on the team this year, which is a big improvement from last year. Its great to have that many girls involved," he said.
The versatility of the squad is beneficial as well. "We will play hard and battle. I'm going to have to use a few freshmen and we're going to have a few girls who can play a lot of different spots. That will be a big plus for us."
Stokes emphasizes hard work and playing as a team and looks for the steady improvement to continue. "We've improved all this week and look to keep that up and go into the district tournament as a pretty tough team."
The Lady Eagles open up their season at home against East Carter County. The game will be at 4 p.m on Aug. 26.