Lady Cougars return four starters, fall to tough Paragould squad

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Members of the Lady Cougar softball team include, from left: Front--Rachel Mathewson, Elizabeth Loveless, Stephanie Newman, Sara Fannin and Amber Haynes. Middle--Abie Petty, Bethany Sisneros, Stephanie DeMent, Hillary Calhoun, Destinei Heathcott and Rebecca Dodd. Back--Brittany Sharp, Harmony Cagle, Emily Cornelison, Rhoda Classen and Kristie Hardin.

The Lady Cougars had a hard time on the diamond Monday, as they visited Paragould to face the hosting Lady Rams. Rector was downed 14-0 in five innings.

"We just went up against a team that was better than us," coach Matt Rabjohn said. "That's just all there was to it. We have to pick ourselves up and keep going out and working hard to improve."

The Lady Cougars faced a bona fide ace on the mound, as Paragould's Whitney Stewart allowed just two hits in the abbreviated affair while striking out 12 batters.

Hillary Calhoun and Bethany Sisneros were the only players from Rector to reach base. Calhoun knocked a triple, but was left stranded. Sisneros reached on a single.

Though four starters return from a year ago, Rabjohn is counting on a plethora of young players to step up and fill roles left behind following the departures of key positions from last season.

"We're a young, inexperienced squad," Rabjohn said. "A lot of these girls have not played at the high school level. We're going to need them to step up and contribute right away. They're going to be going in right at the deep end.

"The returning starters are going to have to be leaders and contribute a lot."

Back on the mound for Rector is senior Elizabeth Loveless. She was a mainstay at pitcher for last year's state tournament team.

"She comes in with a lot of experience," Rabjohn said. "She's not going to overpower anyone, but she does a good job of throwing strikes and making other teams put the ball in play."

Junior Hillary Calhoun is back behind the plate.

"Hillary is our most athletic, and probably best, player," Rabjohn said. "She's a good hitter and has a strong arm. I'm hoping for a strong season out of her."

Senior Sarah Fannin returns at centerfield.

"Sarah's got good experience. She's come out and gotten better each year. I think this could be a big year for her."

Sophomores Stephanie DeMent and Rebecca Dodd split time at second base a year ago and are likely to do so again this season. Rabjohn says the two are neck-and-neck in the early going, but that may change as time progresses.

Senior Amber Haynes joins the team at third base. Though she didn't play last year, Haynes worked the hot corner at Marmaduke two years ago.

"Amber's a good athlete and can be a solid player for us. She has the potential to be a good hitter."

Sophomore Harmony Cagle and freshman Emily Cornelison are both vying for time at first base. The two are fairly evenly matched and the decision is likely to come down to whom has the most lively bat.

Brittany Sharp will handle the chores in leftfield. Sharp worked hard in practice last year as a freshman and has shown a lot of potential at the plate.

Junior Bethany Sisneros gets the nod in rightfield. Ranjohn says Sisneros has played summer softball for years and is hoping she makes the transition to the high school game.

Sophomore Destinei Heathcott has found her way into the lineup as a designated hitter. Rabjohn says she's "kind of new" to the game and is "learning on the fly."

Senior Stephanie Newman has an active bat and could find herself breaking into the starting lineup as the season progresses.

Filling out the squad are freshmen Abie Petty, Rhoda Classen and Kristie Hardin. All three have years of experience playing softball during the summer and are expected to be integral parts of the team's future, as well as having the opportunity to make an impact this season.

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