Coming off of a 21-10 season in what was expected to be a rebuilding year, Prairie View's softball program appears to be in good shape for years to come.
“I'm hoping for a good year,” coach Larry Taylor said. “I'm expecting a good year.”
Two young pitchers, sophomore Jeri Harper, and freshman Bailey Ryder were both solid in their rookie year with the varsity.
Harper compiled an 11-7 record and allowed only 42 hits in 87 1/3 innings. Doubling at shortstop, Harper compiled a .325 batting average, second on the team as a freshman.
Ryder posted a 10-3 mark and issued just eight walks in 71 1/3 innings. When Harper pitches, Ryder moves to the outfield.
“It's nice to have two experienced pitchers and for both of them to be so young,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been promoted to head coach after spending the past two seasons as an assistant to Ed Bain and Dan Smart. Smart will serve as head baseball coach and an assistant varsity football coach this year.
Despite the losses of District 3-2A MVP Kristin Kindrix and multi-year starters Victoria Billings, Molley Gregory and Leslie Spires, Taylor inherits a roster loaded with young talent. Of the 10 projected starters, four are sophomores and two are freshmen.
One senior who is being counted on heavily is Kristen Oliphant. The lone holdover starter from the Lady Spartans' 2009 state championship team, Oliphant enters her fifth season in the starting lineup. In addition to starting at third base, Oliphant is the backup catcher. Last season, she hit .286 with 21 stolen bases.
Junior Erika Guerrero (.269, .458 on base percentage) returns behind the plate.
“I'm looking for a big year out of Kristen as well as Erika,” Taylor said. “Kristen is a senior leader and Erika does a good job behind the plate.”
Also back is second baseman Alyssa Montgomery, who hit .262 with six doubles as an eighth-grader.
Brianna Jacobs (so.) will play either center or left field this year after spending last season in right.
The remaining spots will be filled by first baseman Amanda Jones (sr.), second baseman/outfielder Kristin Bozeman (so.) and outfielders Jordan Caldwell (sr.) and Maria Roberts (so.).
Prairie View opens the season next week in the Riverfield Tournament. The Lady Spartans are paired against River Oaks on Friday at 5:30 p.m., before starting bracket play against Riverfield on Saturday at 9:20 a.m.
“The Riverfield Tournament should be a good early-season test for us,” Taylor said.