Prairie View Softball Preview

First-year Prairie View Lady Spartans' softball coach Carmen Rugg likes what she has seen from her team during preseason workouts.

“They have been working hard,” said Rugg, the former Union Christian coach who is assisted by her husband, Rusty. “We have been having three to four hour practices three days a week and they have been faithful. They have put in the time.”

Seeking to bounce back from a disappointing 10-22 2013 campaign, the Lady Spartans open the season Friday afternoon at 4:20 vs. Cenla Christian in the Riverfield Tournament.

While the pitching was solid, the Lady Spartans never got untracked offensively (.222 team batting average) and struggled mightily defensively (.827 team fielding percentage, 135 errors in 32 games).

Carmen Rugg anticipates drastic improvement on the defensive front.

“I expect our defense and pitching to be sound,” Rugg said. “They can hit Jeri (Harper) and Bailey (Ryder) in practice, but you never know how you are going to hit until you get into a game.”

Victimized by the Lady Spartans' porous defense, Ryder won just 4 of 18 decisions as a sophomore despite posting a respectable 3.77 earned run average. She struck out 53 batters and walked only 19 in 87 1/3 innings.

Harper (6-6, 3.12) notched 67 punchouts against 35 walks while allowing just 43 hits in 60 2/3 innings.

“Jeri and Bailey both throw the ball pretty hard,” Rugg said. “We should have two of the top pitchers around.”

Ryder was the team's third-leading hitter last season behind a pair of seniors, second baseman Kristin Boseman (.306) and catcher Erika Guerrero (.284). Striking out only three times in 80 plate appearances, Ryder's season line included a .247 batting average with 15 RBI, 22 runs scored and six stolen bases in seven attempts.

Harper contributed 14 RBI and was 5-of-5 in the stolen base category last season.

Ryder plays shortstop when Harper pitches. When Ryder takes the circle, Harper goes to center field.

Junior Haley Yarbrough (.243, team-high 21 RBI), who is coming off knee surgery, moves from third base to catcher. Eighth-grader Jayla Stewart is the backup.

Junior Alyssa Montgomery, who returns to PVA after attending Beekman Charter last year, is expected to bolster the offense. Earning All-State honors as a freshman, Montgomery hit .321 with a home run, five doubles and 12 RBI while helping the Lady Spartans win the MAIS District 3-2A championship.

Montgomery has moved across the diamond from first to third base. She is joined on the starting infield by junior first baseman Sheridan May, sophomore second baseman Morgan Grayson and senior shortstop Amery Clark.

The outfield has Stewart in left, Clark in center and senior Alexus DeBliuex (.231, 11 RBI, 7 stolen bases) in right. Seniors Rebekah Lenard and Taylor Book are the backups.

Other candidates for action include freshman second baseman/left fielder Tabor Moyers, freshman lefthanded pitcher Hope Lindeman and sophomore shortstop Kayli Christmas.