HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Mounties return depth with much to prove on diamond

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The last time Southmont softball took the field, it was a 2-0 14-inning loss to Oak Hill in the Class 2A Regional. It ended a 14-13 sectional championship season, but proved the Mounties would be poised to make a state tourney run similar to 2014 with eight returning starters, including five seniors in 2020.

The 2020 season never happened. An entire lost season and five seniors who saw their careers abruptly end.

Mountie coach Dan Taylor isn’t ready to count his squad out though — with five returning starters from the 2019 sectional title team — Southmont hopes to compete for another title this spring.

“Our mindset is that we are fortunate, despite the loss of five outstanding seniors in 2020, to return five starters from our 2019 sectional championship team,” Taylor said. “Like all teams, we lost a year of player development. Six of our players played travel softball last year, so all the effect of the pandemic on those players was mitigated to some degree.”

Seniors Natalie Manion and Marissa Craig and juniors Taylor Grino. Macie Shirk, and Hanna Nichols all return from the 2019 team.

Shirk, who was primarily a designated hitter as a freshman hitting .274, will be the Mounties ace in the circle, while Nichols (.274) will move from the outfield to behind the plate and bat lead off. Grino hit .400 as a freshman and will join Craig in the outfield. Manion returns as the starting shortstop after hitting .306 as a freshman. 

“We rely a lot on our returning starters,” Taylor said. “They are all outstanding athletes, students and softball players. They have led us to success in the past, and they know how to bring a high level of effort and energy every day, as all champions do.”

Taylor expects sophomore Chelsea Veatch to play third-base, senior Emalie Ayers to fill the void at second-base and senior Abbey Gass to play right-field. Junior Elizabeth Conkright and sophomore Dara Watson will platoon at first-base. Taylor also expects senior Kayden Wilbur, sophomores Makia Pierce, Kalli Todd, Lilly Odum, Brady Spencer, and Chesney Foster, and freshmen Camden Dinius, Harmonee Margison, Cheyenne Shaw, and Allie Rhodes to all contribute.

Southmont opens the season at home on Monday, April 5.

“Our goal is to play the best we can every day and to improve every day,” Taylor said. “We believe that if we do these two things the wins will take care of themselves. Of course, we have very high expectations. We expect to win, and we will play hard. In 2019, we played our best softball down the stretch and in the post-season. Our Regional loss to Oak Hill left our players feeling as if they can play at a higher level, and they feel as if they have some things to prove in 2021.”

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