(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Lady Bulldogs softball team will open this season with some healthy competition on the practice field as they look to fill the holes left by last year's graduating class.
"There's still about three or four spots that aren't held down by any one person," Sikeston coach Tiffany Morgan said. "It's just going to be hard work and dedication and the ones that show that hard work are the ones that are going to have those starting spots."
Those girls lucky enough to earn a starting nod will have some big shoes to fill as last year's senior class featured 2010's Co-Standard Democrat Players of the Year Sarah Hopson and Sydney Davied.
While helping guide the Lady Bulldogs to a 14-8 record last season, Davied and Hopson provided Sikeston with a 1-2 punch on the mound and at the plate.
Hopson had a .436 batting average with 16 runs batted in and five home runs while going 10-5 with a 1.57 earned run average on the mound. Davied batted .387 with 16 runs batted in while pitching her way to a 1.58 earned run average.
Though its unlikely to get those numbers from a team made up largely of underclassmen and only one senior, Morgan is optimistic she still has the talent to field a successful team.
"I know that we have a bunch of committed girls that have been working really hard," Morgan said. "We've lost a lot in the pitching and the offensive aspects that Sydney and Sarah brought.
"But I think overall for being a young team and only having one senior, the girls will come out and play solid ball."
One of the returning veterans that Sikeston will be able to turn to is junior catcher Sarah Dixon, who last year was an honorable mention on the all-district team.
While it remains to be seen whose bats can take the place of Hopson and Davied, a trio of underclassmen girls will get the chance to handle the pitching duties. They include freshmen Paige Sailors and Madison Smith along with sophomore Andrea Burks.
Morgan said of Burks, "She pitched some jayvee last year and has really came on this summer."
Besides the roster turnover, another change coming to the Lady Bulldogs will be in the coaching ranks.
While Morgan takes a leave from the team for the first half of the season to spend time with her newborn baby, she will hand over her coaching duties to assistants Lisa James and Paige Silverthorn.
"I've been the assistant coach for the last three years so I've been looking forward to this," James said. "It's an exciting time and coach Silverthorn and I work well together. I think we'll do just fine."
Added Silverthorn, "It's fun because I can see a lot of me in these girls when I was that age, which was like five years ago."
Not too far out of her own high school days, Silverthorn said she sees a lot of the same components in this group of girls that led to successful runs for Sikeston these past few seasons.
"I think we're kind of back to where we were a few years ago when Sarah and Sydney were freshman," Silverthorn said. "It's kind of the same thing, we have some very young talent with a lot of potential."