MHS softball Lady Tigers should have another banner year
By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor
MARCELINE — Continuation of the superb 6-years run of softball success produced by the Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers is expected to resume this afternoon – in bright and hopefully slightly-milder conditions – when a highly-anticipated 2020 postseason battle that never happened finally comes about in a lower-stakes clash.
The Lady Tigers are due to be guests of Hamilton’s Penney High Lady Hornets in 5 p.m. action at the PHS field today in the 2021 season opener for both sides.
Last fall at home, the Lady Tigers nipped Hamilton 2-1, initiating a run to a 23-1 MHS record entering truncated (due to COVID-19) Class 2 state tournament.
In state play, the expectation was that Marceline, 2019 state runnerup, would visit Hamilton, which stood “only” 16-7 after claiming its district’s title, for a rematch in the semifinals, but it never happened.
While Hamilton held up its end of the bargain with a quarterfinals victory, the Lady Tigers unexpectedly were knocked off by Monroe City 13-7, ending its tremendous season short of its ultimate goal – a state title, but still with an exceptional 23-2 mark.
Due to graduations and the regular-season circumstance, today’s game won’t have the same glitter and glamour, since the Lady Hornets graduated top pitcher Julia Kanoy and multiple other key players from their squad, which finished second at state to Columbia: Father Tolton Regional.
While MHS head coach Todd Lowther also has seen a top 2020 performer or two depart through graduation, the vast majority of last year’s starting lineup is back – mostly at the same positions, plus a 2019 starter who missed all of last season with an injury.
“We return a good nucleus,” concedes Lowther.
“Our lineup is deeply mixed with power and speed. Both of our top pitchers are returning, which will give us depth ‘on the mound’ (pitcher’s circle). We also have a deep bench that will give us several options to choose from” for pinch-hitters, courtesy runners, reserves in case of injury/illness/quarantine absence.
As the veteran MHS coach notes, the return of Cassi Rodgers and Ireland Bloss – neither yet a senior – at the sport’s most-critical position (pitcher) gives the 2021 Lady Tigers an immediate and massive foundational piece. The one not pitching at a given moment or in a particular game handles the shortstopping chores, arguably the second-most important defensive role in high school girls’ softball.
The infield defense will be all-veterans, Lowther reports. Junior Addison Huber will handle third base again with classmate Emmy Smithhisler at second and back-from-injury senior Jenna Elam stationed at first with either sophomore Bloss or junior Rodgers at short.
Moving in from right field to fill the graduation void at catcher, the game’s second-most-important post if shortstop isn’t, will be speedy senior Gracey Jordan.
Remaining in “the garden” will be another speedster, Sarah Kussman, in center field and Kennedy Edgar in left. Both are seniors.
Contending for the right field spot have been multiple players – seniors Sevilla Bussman and Chloee Dorrell and sophomores Lucy Moseley, Madison Teeter and Ava Thornburg.
Junior Ella Lowe and sophomore Emma Cathey could ride their bats into use in the “designated player” (extra hitter) role. Lowe figures to get some use at first base and Cathey at catcher, the coach reports, while Teeter could play some second base.
“I feel this team will be very competitive every game and potentially make a deep run in the postseason,” Lowther affirms.
How that postseason scene will look, in terms of classification and district assignment, finally was announced by the Missouri State High School Activities Association last Friday – too late for referencing in this article. Regardless of MHS’ specific assignment for the postseason, it should be capable of contending for another district championship.
Also in MHS’ crosshairs will be another Lewis and Clark Conference title, where the outcome of the Sept. 16 home game against perennial power Salisbury (Class 1 state semifinalist last year) again could decide the crown. That, surprisingly, will be the first 2021 home game for Marceline, which walloped the Lady Panthers 15-2 at Salisbury last September.
“This is a very hard-working group of girls that has high expectations for this season,” Lowther confirms.
The season will open with five road games and the Putnam County tournament before that mid-September home debut rolls around.