Prairie View Softball Preview
Prairie View's softball program has paid its dues with youth for the past two seasons. Though still extremely young, the Lady Spartans appear to be on the brink of a breakthrough this season.
Last year's 12-14 record under first-year coach Megan Till marked a major step forward. Despite going two-and-out in the South State Tournament, it was an encouraging finish. Prairie View was competitive in both games, falling to Centreville 15-12 and Sylva Bay 16-11.
For a squad carrying only one senior and two juniors on the 18-player roster, the Lady Spartans have a wealth of experience. With all but three players returning, Till is looking to build on last year's momentum.
"We went 0-2 in the playoffs, but we scored 26 runs in the two games against bigger schools," Till said. "We were down to nine players because we had two starters hurt, but we played phenomenal and ended the season on a high note. I was proud of the effort, and I thought it helped us going into this year."
A recent scrimmage against a pair of LHSAA opponents added fuel to Till's optimism. Prairie View won both games, defeating Delhi Charter 8-1 and Beekman 5-4.
"We came out and scored five runs in the first inning against Delhi Charter," Till said. "Our infield flashed a lot of leather in the scrimmage. We were making diving plays and turning double plays, which has me excited."
Prairie View opened preseason camp in mid-June, took the 4th of July week off and has been practicing every weekday morning since.
"It's been hot, but they have to get used to putting in three hours of effort," Till said.
Sophomore Rachel Hankins and eighth-graders Elle Morgan and Kayla Hawthorne all return in the circle with a year of seasoning.
"We have a pretty solid pitching corps," Till said. "All three of them have made a lot of strides in the offseason."
Entering her third season as a starter, freshman Anna Grace White is a fixture behind the plate. Last season, she posted a .308 batting average with a .444 on base percentage, a triple, seven doubles, 12 RBIs and was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases.
Hankins and Morgan will split time at first base, depending upon who's pitching.
"We have a lot of versatility this year," Till said. "Pretty much everybody we have can play infield or outfield, which has really been helping us in practice. Everybody is learning where they are supposed to be."
Hankins hit .241 with a .397 on base percentage, a home run, four doubles and a team-leading 20 RBIs.
Morgan's season line included a .273 batting average, a .412 on base percentage and 14 ribbies.
Chloe Hobson returns at second base after hitting .245 with a .394 on base percentage and 11 RBIs as a seventh-grader.
Junior Hannah Billings is at third with freshman Chloe Halterman at shortstop.
Freshman Emma Goss, junior Madi Crymes, senior Amelia Crnkovic, seventh-grader Lexi West, Hawthorne, Morgan and Halterman are all available in the outfield.
Goss' .345 batting average is tops among the returnees.
"Emma Goss is probably going to be our outfield captain as far as being our vocal leader and knowing where everybody is supposed to be," Till said.
Hawthorne is coming off of a big year at the plate after hitting .328 with a .435 on base clip, a .552 slugging percentage, one home run, three triples, four doubles and 15 RBIs while striking out only three times in 70 plate appearances. Her 27 runs scored and 12 stolen bases were both team highs.
Morgan drove in 14 runs while logging a .273 batting average and a .412 on base percentage.
"Our hitting, I think, is going to be okay," Till said. "We have a pretty solid lineup 1-9. I believe 1-9, we are going to be able to put the ball in play most of the time. I like the potential of our lineup."
Till is confident the Lady Spartans will hit for more power this season.
"We've been hitting multiple home runs in batting practice," Till said. "I'm hoping our longball numbers are going up. We're so much bigger and stronger, and our maturity is off the charts compared to where we were at this time last year."
Till is also excited about the long-term outlook of the program. Though none are expected to impact the varsity right away, Till has added four sixth-graders to the roster.
"They are learning the system and being introduced to the culture we are trying to create," Till said. "I call them my little nuggets. They are going to be fireballs one day."
Prairie View opens the regular season Friday and Saturday (July 27-28) in the Riverfield Tournament.