CMHS softball reloads to defend MSAC championship
ONA — Six road games, including today’s 5:30 p.m. matchup at Lincoln County, await the 2019 Cabell Midland softball team as it tries to replace three graduates who had college-level talent with returning starters and promising young freshmen who make the Knights a team to watch.
The defending Mountain State Atheletic Conference Champions have the talent on this year’s squad to replace graduates Ginny Hardin, Haley Johnson and Mikayla McIntosh, according to head coach Herman Beckett.
Hardin was the 2018 MSAC Player of the Year while McIntosh was a first-team all-MSAC selection and Johnson was an all-MSAC honorable mention. Last year’s Knights compiled a 22-5 record and were eliminated by Hurricane in the sectional finals.
“We lost a pitcher (McIntosh), a shortstop (Johnson) and a catcher (Hardin) but we’re going to be good on offense and strong on defense,” Beckett said of a Knights team comprised of three seniors, five juniors, 12 sophomores and six freshmen.
To back that up, Beckett looks to returning starters Kirya Kingery, Sydney Chapman, Gracie Hightower, Rielly Lucas, Olivia Pelphrey, Mikayla Ferguson and Megan Nethercutt to provide experienced defense. Additionally, Cabell Midland has Tori Kelley returning to lead Beckett’s pitching staff with Ferguson also figuring to make an impact.
Kingery, one of three seniors along with Chapman and Kelley, hit leadoff a season ago and is a solid hitter with typical leadoff hitter speed. Beckett said she’ll likely return to her second base position in the field but could workout at shortstop too.
Chapman may also play shortstop with Kingery as they try to fill Johnson’s shoes there. Chapman played third base last season and looks to split time there with Kelley when she isn’t pitching. Beckett said too that freshman Haley Row will get “a long look” at third base too.
Beckett said not all of the fielding positions were “nailed down” although he added that Lucas, a sophomore who batted cleanup for last year’s team, had her first base position locked up.
Ferguson, Nethercutt and Hightower are returning starters for the outfield with Hanna Brumfield, Kiley Adkins, Shay Lee Lewis and Bailey Rivast figuring to see playing time there when Ferguson is pitching.
Ella Nease will likely bat as the designated hitter this season and provides speed to Beckett’s offense also. One of 12 sophomores on the Knights’ squad, Nease saw considerable time as a courtesy runner for last year’s team.
To replace Hardin behind the plate, Beckett said he will likely turn to another sophomore, Olivia Pelphrey, who filled in for Hardin last year while she dealt with an injury.
“We’re a deep team and lot of the girls have been playing travel ball together. Some of them played right up through last month,” Beckett said. “I think 90 percent of our girls would start for any other team.”
Cabell Midland will open the home portion of its schedule on March 27 against George Washington in a game that is part of the school’s Sluggerfest Tournament.