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Pitching to be the key for MAAA softball season

The six MAAA softball teams lost a total of only 16 players to graduation last year, so in some ways one might expect this year’s season to be a duplicate of last year’s. Don’t hold your breath. However, just like last season this year may be full of surprises, too.

The Farmington Knightettes were seen by most as the team to win the MAAA’s ‘whole enchilada’ at the start of the 2004 season. The Knightettes had won the conference the year before and had most of their team returning, but Fredericktown and Ste. Genevieve not only played the role of the spoiler, but they also established themselves as teams to be beat.

Fredericktown split their two games with Farmington, but Ste. Genevieve edged out 5-3 and 2-1 wins over the Knightettes, which dropped Farmington into finishing third behind the two teams. The Lady Cats won both of their games over the Ste. Genevieve Hunters to claim the conference title.

Farmington got some revenge at the end of the season by beating both teams to win the conference tournament, and the Knightettes would like nothing better than to add to it by winning this year’s conference crown.

However, it most likely won’t be a ‘gimme’ this year either. One of the keys to winning fast-pitch softball is to have good pitching, and it should be the name of the game this year for the MAAA.

Farmington will have that key. Returning to the mound for the Knightettes will be Natalie Sago, a junior, who had a record of 17-5 last year and an ERA of 1.03 with 103 strike-outs, but it won’t be just pitching that Farmington will bring to the field.

The Knightettes will also bring back some of the league’s top hitters in juniors Marissa Hoehn, Kiersten Rodgers, and Sago, and senior Kristen Hayes with all five hitting well over .300.

The Knightettes will also rely on speed. Farmington coach Stan Walden is known to run the girls on the basepaths and with Hayes, who was one of the league’s top base-stealers, as the Knightette’s lead-off hitter, opposing pitchers will want to keep her and her teammates off of the bases.

The Fredericktown Lady Cats should battle the Knightettes for the conference title again this year, since the Lady Cats also retained most all of their starting line-up. Fredericktown’s softball phenom, Amy Hendrix, will be back and this time starting out in good health. Hendrix, a junior, started last year coming off of injuries from an auto accident.

Having her and the rest of the team healthy will be a must this first week as the Lady Cats will play Herculaneum, who they have never beaten, on Monday, Ste. Genevieve on Tuesday, and then Farmington on Thursday with all three games away.

Jenni Kemp will again take the mound for the Lady Cats. Kemp had a 1.44 ERA last year with 98 strike-outs. Hitting-wise, the Lady Cats will have Hendrix, Johnna Tinnin, and Lindsey Wagganer returning with averages above .300 last year. Wagganer led the team in home runs and triples.

“Hopefully we can take off without missing a beat from last season,” said Fredericktown coach Eric Newell.

The Central Lady Rebels hope to speed up the beat for their season. Last year was a rebuilding year and the Lady Rebels struggled for the most part. However, Central will bring back their entire infield, which leaves Coach Craig Allen not worried about his defense.

Also a worry that hopefully will be solved is the Lady Rebels pitching. Freshman Amber Kennedy will take the mound for Central. Kennedy has proven to be one of the top-notch pitchers in the area in summer-league ball. Returning to the team will be Brittany Ashby who sat out last year due to injury.

“Our big concentration has been on hitting in the preseason,” said Newell. “I’m very comfortable with our defense.”

The North County Lady Raiders look to improve their cellar-season of last year. After a rebuilding year the Lady Raiders will be blessed with pitchers. Freshmen Jennifer Hackworth, who also pitched in the Park Hills league, and Katie Gibson, who pitched on select teams in St. Louis, will be joined by Hali Prosser who has transferred in as a junior.

The Lady Raiders return nearly all of their line-up from last year, and should be a force to contend with throughout the season. The Lady Raiders will have good senior leadership in Katie Krodinger, Jessica House, Ann Boyer, Danielle Rawson, Cassie Jackson, and Sam Byington.

The Ste. Genevieve Hunters were probably the most injured by last year’s graduation. In losing their pitcher, Shaine Weiler and shortstop Jenna Viox, they also lost a good part of their offense as well.

Trying to develop a pitcher for this season has taken up a good portion of the preseason preparation for the team.

“I think our defense will be okay, we’re just hoping to find a girl who can put the ball in the strike zone to keep it in play,” said Ste. Genevieve coach Mike Weiler.

The Hunters do return Lindsey Roth who was All-District catcher last year along with most all of their defense.

The Potosi Trojans were 4-6 in the MAAA last year and were in the game in most all of their conference losses, losing games to Fredericktown and Ste. Genevieve by only one run. The Lady Trojans will not be taken lightly as they bring back nearly everyone from last-year’s squad.

Robin Pashia will most likely take the mound again. Pashia kept Potosi’s opponent’s off-balance enough to allow her team to make a game of it last year. Six of Potosi’s 10 losses last season were by three runs or less. This year the Lady Trojans are hoping for those close games to fall the other way.

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