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August 22, 2013

Lady Tigers Looking to Build on Record 2012 Softball Season

After capturing the first conference softball title in school history a season ago, The Scotland County Lady Tigers have their sights set even higher heading into the 2013 season.

SCR-I was a single run away from a district title, seeing the season closed out in a 4-3 loss to Knox County in the district championship game. The Eagles went on to a final four appearance in the Missouri Class 1 state tournament.

That left a bitter taste in the mouths of SCR-I, which handed the Lady Eagles one of only three losses on the year.

Coach Kim Small is hoping that being that close to a playoff berth will serve as motivation for this year's squad.

Small, the reigning Tri-Rivers Conference coach of the year, has some big shoes to fill, with the departure of graduates Megan Creek and Katie Howard, but she is confident that with seven returning starters, SCR-I can again compete for a conference and district title.

Creek was an all-district and all-conference performer, compiling a 9-1 record with a 0.94 ERA. She batted .408 with seven doubles, three triples, five home runs and a team best 32 runs scored.

Senior Bethany Rader will shoulder a lot of the load, literally. The all-district and all-conference performer will handle the pitching duties for SCR-I. Rader posted a 7-5 record with a 0.60 ERA last season. She struck out 84 batters.

She also led the Lady Tigers with a .451 batting average that included nine doubles and four home runs. She scored 21 runs and led Scotland County with 31 RBIs.

Junior Brieanna Priebe will also see time on the mound. After serving primarily as a second baseman, Priebe will again anchor the infield defense and will be looked upon to help pick up some of the offensive load lost with Creek and Howard's graduation.

A key change in 2013 will be at shortstop, where junior Randi Slaughter will take over. A season ago, Rader and Creek rotated at the position when not pitching. Small said Rader will handle the spot when Priebe pitches. Slaughter moves in from center field, where she was an all-region performer. The speedster will be a key component again at the top of the SCR-I batting order. She hit .380 last season.

The duo will be flanked on the corner infield spots by returning starters Claire Shannan and Hailey Dial. Dial earned all-region recognition after hitting .279 last year and was one of the top defensive first basemen in the league.

Miranda Holland has been tabbed to take over for Slaughter in center field. The sophomore saw time as a freshman on the varsity squad as a left fielder and designated hitter. Shaye Wright, one of three seniors on the 2013 team, will return as the starting right fielder while freshman Abi Feeney has earned the starting job in left field.

Rader will once again be throwing to Olivia Harris. The catcher battled foot problems last year as a sophomore that limited her at the plate and forced coach Small to use a pinch runner for her frequently. A return to health in 2013 should allow her to be counted on for a bigger load on offense.

With seven returning starters, SCR-I will have the luxury of experience that several key opponents will be lacking. A strong core of seniors led Knox County to the state playoffs, and thus the Eagles will have to replace the likes of conference MVP, catcher Bailey Couch. The team also graduated all-conference performers Rachel Poston (pitcher), Devin Gudehus (shortstop) and Mackenzie Hustead (center fielder). The defending district champs will return all-star performers Sarah Dooley, and Hannah Dale who will lead the team's efforts to repeat.

Other key graduations in the conference included Schuyler County's Whitney McElhinney (center fielder) and Alexis Boas (pitcher). Putnam County and North Shelby will also have to replace their number one pitchers.


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