Morenci softball preview 4.9

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci softball coach Kay Johnson has a lot to like about this year’s squad.

There was no one lost to graduation. Her pitcher is back after missing last season with an injury. She gained an experienced player who moved back into the district. And she has the most talented freshman class that she’s seen in a long time.

Cause for celebration?

Maybe a muted one. There’s defending league champion Sand Creek that also has everyone back. There’s state semi-finalist Summerfield with plenty of girls returning. There’s Clinton, new to the league, with three state finals appearances in the last half dozen years. There’s always tough Whiteford.

“We should have one of the best small-school leagues around,” Johnson said.

She’s said that before in the past, but it seems to ring true more than ever this season.

At least she has a squad ready to enter the fray—with one important “if.” That’s Jade Pfund who missed last season on the mound. She underwent surgery in August and so far it appears that she’s ready to throw.

“If Jade can pitch and we can hit like we did last year, we should be in pretty good shape,” Johnson said.

She’s hoping to see her offense hold strong from last season, perhaps even improve.

“We scored a lot of runs last year because we had to,” she said.

The Bulldogs were giving up a lot of runs with inexperienced pitching and some rookie defensive players. With all of the defense played last season, she’s expecting improvements from a more experienced team.

Three seniors will return to their positions from last season—Rachel Rutkowski in the outfield, Salena Martinez behind the plate and Brooke Barrett at first.

Two juniors will also return to their old positions—Megan Cox in the outfield and Nicolette Swimmer at shortstop.

Sophomore Chanler McCaskey will take third base and Mariah Bovee, who was unexpectedly thrust onto the mound last year, will handle second. Denae Merillat will return to the outfield.

Pfund, a junior, completes the lineup after playing only six innings all season last year.

Junior Jackie Paris is back on the team and junior Dana Joughin is back after missing last season.

Sophomore Krystal Miles returns and Alexis Kramer is back in Morenci after starting last year for Madison.

Last season the Bulldogs worked with 12 players for most of the season. This year’s freshman class could almost field a team of its own with eight players out. There’s some good quality among the group, good enough to challenge some upper classmen for starting roles.

Freshmen are Tess Ramsey, Meghan Smith, Tia Tompkins, Chelsea Tompkins, Mercedez McCaskey, Barbara Hollstein, Elaina Pruzinksy and Ashley Smith.

“We may start off a little slow while I’m looking over the positions,” Johnson said. “We might give up some non-league games to give the younger kids some experience.”

After the first two outings were canceled due to snow, Morenci is waiting until Thursday to open at Erie Mason. The Bulldogs will compete Saturday at the Grass Lake Invitational and will follow that up with a double-header Monday at Addison.

The league season starts April 18 at Madison and the home opener isn’t until April 23.

Coach Johnson is convinced the Bulldogs will be better than last season and possibly the best in several years. But with the quality of play in this year’s Tri-County Conference, fans will just have to wait and see if the improved Bulldogs are able to produce the wins.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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