By David Sharp
Knox County will continue their high school softball rebuilding process with five returning starters from their four win 2006 varsity campaign. Stephanie Crawford was promoted to the head varsity coaching position from her assistant coaching job. Crawford replaces Kenny Jett, who resigned after one year at Knox County. Jett is currently the head girls' basketball coach at Madison, Mo.
The Lady Eagles return five full or part time starters. Ten players reported for practice, down from the usual 17 to 20 high school softball participants over the past several seasons. One more player is currently expected to join the team, for a total of 11 high school softball players. Knox County is not expected to field a JV softball team this season.
"We have had to make adjustments from what we would normally do in practice with only ten girls playing," said Stephanie Crawford. "The girls that we do have out here are dedicated and are willing to work hard. They want to get better and they want to win. I couldn't ask for a better group of girls."
Knox County was forced to cancel their 2006 Middle School softball season due to lack of players. Four freshmen are on the KCHS roster along with four sophomores. The 2006 softball roster had a similar look. Many schools see student/athletes play until they reach upperclassman status and quit for jobs or to concentrate on other sports.
The Lady Eagles lost five players from last years' squad to graduation and at least two projected starters declined to participate this season. Seniors Jordin Luthenauer and Holly Kite returned to lead the 2007 Lady Eagle softball team. Two year starter Amanda Woods is the lone junior on the KCHS softball roster.
"They haven't complained about anything they have had to do," said Coach Crawford. "Their attitudes have been excellent." Stephanie Crawford will be Knox County's fourth head softball coach in as many seasons. Highland graduate Melissa Long will be the Lady Eagle's 2007 assistant softball coach.
Sophomore Brittany Miller handled most of the varsity mound duties last season and returns as a projected starter on the rubber. Miller has a good fastball and is also a middle of the lineup batter. Lorrie Peters and Jordin Luthenauer will handle the bulk of catching duties.
Returning all-district infielder Myra Parrish will likely move over to third base with Holly Kite sliding over to first base. Freshman Hannah Dale currently has a leg up on the shortstop position with classmate Chelsea Bisch competing for the starting second base job.
Amanda Woods will start in the outfield. Bobi Jo Goodrich, and Jordin Luthenauer are listed in the outfield along with freshmen Athena Wolter and Kaley Sutton.
The Lady Eagles have two tough opponents among their first three games. Canton improved steadily throughout the 2006 season, and Palmyra won the 2006 Class 2 state title. The Lady Panthers return eight of their nine starters along with all state hurler Taylor Baxter. The Lady Eagles start their season at Canton on August 20.
Knox County hosts Scotland County in non-conference play August 30 before hosting the Knox County Tournament on September 1. Knox County hosts a relatively inexperienced, but talent laden Highland team on September 4.
Putnam County will likely enter the 2007 season favored to win the Tri-Rivers Conference softball title. Brookfield, Schuyler County and North Shelby figure to contend in 2007. The Lady Eagles and Brashear are scheduled to take part in the Schuyler County varsity softball tournament on September 22.
"Most of the girls we have coming back are returning varsity players with the exception of the incoming freshmen," said Coach Crawford. "Most of our incoming freshmen would probably have played varsity even if we did have a JV team."
"I'm looking forward to having a good season, and building on what we had last year," commented Crawford. "Our girls gained a lot of game experience over the summer. Hannah Dale is going to be a huge addition to our varsity team. Myra Parrish is a great player coming back. Brittany Miller and Amanda Woods have improved greatly over the summer as have Holly Kite and Lorrie Peters."
"I think we are going to hang in there a lot more than the other teams expect us to," said Stephanie Crawford. "Obviously we will have trouble if we have injuries. Our girls need to stay dedicated to the program. They are ready to improve. They are ready to win."