Lady Mohawk Softball Adds New Faces to Solid Roster
The Piggott Lady Mohawk softball squad kicked-off the regular season Monday, traveling to Corning and dropping a 6-5 conference decision. The Lady Bobcats won the game late, breaking a 5-5 tie in the home half of the seventh to determine the final score.
The Tribe was scheduled to be back in action Tuesday, March 5 at Manila, but that was postponed due to the weather. Instead, the Tribe and the Lady Lions will play a doubleheader Feb. 28 at Independence Park. The Tribe was also scheduled to host Harrisburg for a doubleheader Thursday, March 7 but that has been postponed until April 9.
The Mohawks, under Coach Nikki Speer, are coming off a roller coaster season. It was late in the year before the Tribe notched their first conference win, over Hoxie. But, the Mohawk bats and pitching came alive in the post-season, pushing them to a fourth place finish in 3A-3 and a trip to the regional at Bergman.
In the district tournament at Manila, the Mohawks again beat Hoxie and then upset the host Lady Lions before falling to Tuckerman. This earned them a trip to Bergman for the 3A Region 3 tournament. But, in the first round the Tribe ran into the Melbourne Lady Bearcatz and were eliminated by a score of 10-0.
Tuesday Speer looked back on last season, and ahead to the current campaign. "We really peaked at just the right time last year. We got the upset win over Manila at the conference tournament there, and they were seeded a lot higher than we were," she noted. "That earned us the right to go to the regional at Bergman where we ran into Melbourne, but I was really pleased that we peaked at the end of the season--which was just the right time."
The good news for Speer, and this year's Lady Mohawk squad, is the return of a wealth of talent and the addition of a strong freshman class.
"We lost Breanna Wright and Allison Gurley to graduation last year, but we returned Mallory Wright, Allison Crittenden, Bre Chandler, Kasey Crossfield, Taylor Davis, Melinda Blackmon, McKenzie Hopkins, Sadie Sawyers, Autumn Townsend and Kayla Bellers," she explained. Joining the returning players from last year's roster are Caroline Rodery along with freshmen Devyn Staples, Shelby Morgan, Taylor Choate, MaKalia Beck, Tara Vaughn and Madison Crittenden. "We have a great bunch of freshmen coming in," she added.
With the addition of the talented freshmen, and the core of returning players, this year's Lady Mohawk squad will look to once again make a run into the post season.
For Speer, the deep roster will afford her a chance to be more selective on starters, and help foster more competition among her bench players. "I tell the girls every day that this is the first year in a long time that we've got people waiting to go--I mean we've got girls that are very talented and ready to go, so they all know they're going to have to work to keep their spots," she added.
Speer will also be looking to the talented group of freshmen for production this season, and that was evident in the opener at Corning. "Anytime you've got four freshmen starting, and you pitch two freshmen and play another one in the catcher spot like we did at Corning, they're going to make an impact," she noted.
She also added that a good showing at Corning, one of the top teams in the conference the past several years, gives them a good start. "Corning was in the top one or two all of last year, battling back and forth--so that's a really good start for us," she said of the close loss.
According to Speer, the Lady Colts are expected to be at or near the top of the conference standings this season--but after that, the race is wide open. "Rivercrest is also going to be very good again, they have high-quality athletes who will be playing big time college ball someday, so those will be big games for us--but I see us finishing very high in our conference," she explained. "Manila and Harrisburg will also be competitive, but I think they'll see a lot more competition from us this year."
In the loss at Corning Monday, Shelby Morgan got the start and pitched two innings, striking out three and giving up the lone walk of the game. Another freshman, Devyn Staples, came on to pitch the final five innings, striking out four in the process, as she took the loss.
Allison Crittenden paced the offensive attack, going 2 for 3 while MaKalia Beck got the offense started with a triple.
"I was very proud of all of them, it was one of the best games we've played in a long time," Speer said of the team's effort.
Weather permitting, the Mohawks are scheduled to visit Walnut Ridge Monday, March 11 with first pitch set for 4 p.m. The next day, Tuesday, March 12 they're scheduled to host Armorel and Thursday, March 14 they'll host the Westside Lady Warriors in non-conference play. The following week, March 18 to 22, is spring break and the Tribe is scheduled to remain idle. They'll resume the season with a home doubleheader against Osceola Monday, March 25. The season concludes April 23 with a visit to non-conference Marmaduke,with the conference tournament set for April 25 to 27 at Independence Park in Piggott.
Speer, a former PHS standout, is assisted by another former Lady Mohawk star athlete, Melissa Williams.
"I'm really excited, I think we're going to do good and I think we're going to surprise some people," Speer said of the season to come. "Even the coach and umpires at Corning said last night, wow, that was exciting--we haven't seen that kind of play out of Piggott in a long time."