A new softball season has arrived.
As with each new season, there are some familiar faces and new players eager to make their mark. Camdenton said goodbye to six seniors that helped the Lakers capture their first outright Ozark Conference title, first district title and finish the year with an impressive record of 25-5. Shuffling around the roster, it was not quite clear what this year’s team would bring, but so far the results have been good.
Camdenton began the 2017 campaign winning the Sullivan Tournament on August 19- a tournament they did not win a season ago. The Lakers went a perfect 5-0, outscoring their opponents 44 to 13.
“It was pretty awesome. We worked really hard in practice the past couple of weeks to get ready for that tournament and the tournaments coming up,” Camdenton senior Jillian Selander said. “We were expecting to not be as good as we were I guess. We were kind of the underdogs because we lost a lot of people from last year, but once we all came together it was kind of like ‘Wow we are all bringing it together.’
“That gives us a lot more confidence knowing that we can all work together, contribute and just kind of work as a team to make it not as stressful as we thought it would be,” she added.
Camdenton got started against Class 4 Webster Groves where the Lakers cruised to a 12-4 win. Camdenton junior Haile Farris did her part on the mound to keep the opposing bats quite and picked up a win while junior Shelby Webster blasted a three-run home run to energize the Laker offense.
The second contest against Class 4 Jackson saw Camdenton pick up a 5-2 victory. Freshman pitcher Emma Rakes picked up a win in her first career start and junior Emma Uthe had a key at-bat knocking in some vital runs with a 3-RBI triple.
In the quarterfinal round, the Lakers went up against Class 3 Windsor who won a district title in 2016. The Lakers came out ready to go though with a comfortable 12-0 shutout. Farris worked the first five innings and Rake closed the door with a shutout inning of her own respectively.
Camdenton faced a familiar foe in the semifinals as the Lakers took on a Poplar Bluff team that knocked Camdenton out of the tournament with a 6-0 shutout last year. This time, however, the Lakers had a different outcome in mind as they came from behind to earn a 4-2 win.
Once again, Farris provided a reliable arm pitching a complete game. On the offensive side, junior Sidney Jones chose the right time to hit her first career home run. Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, the 2-run shot by Jones was crucial as it put the Lakers up for good and sent the team to the title game.
Camdenton had four different players hit home runs over the course of the tournament, but it was the blast by Jones that was likely the most memorable.
“That was really cool because we had the normal people you see hit home runs and we had Sidney step, who had never hit a home run before,” said Webster who hit a home run herself. “Somebody clutch whom we really needed to manufacture runs. We knew from there that we had to win that game for her.”
Awaiting the Lakers in the championship game was a Class 3 Notre Dame team that finished third in the state a season ago. Camdenton did not waste much time in this one though as they walked away with an 11-5 win and tournament title in hand. Rakes, Farris and senior Lyndsay Boots had solid outings on the mound and doubles from the bats of Webster, Uthe and Farris helped put runs on the board.
In addition to bringing home a piece of hardware for the trophy case, three Lakers were selected to the All-Tournament Team in Rakes, her junior sister Fayth and Farris. Camdenton coach Rick Calbert said he was proud of what his team accomplished as the path to the top of a 16-team tournament was not an easy one.
“There were a lot of well-coached teams and a lot of former district champions in there so it was really good competition. It was quite a feat to get to the championship and it was really nice to win the thing,” he stated. “It was also nice to get some recognition for three players, but just about anyone on the team could have easily been a selection for that All-Tournament Team. There were six, seven or eight kids that could have got it for us, so I was really happy with the team effort.”
Unfortunately, it was not a perfect weekend though as Webster strained her hamstring in the title game. Webster said she hopes to be ready for Tuesday’s contest against West Plains and Calbert hopes that is the case for the 2016 All-District, All-Conference player who has one of the top 10 finishes ever for RBIs in a single season in the state of Missouri. Webster recorded over 50 in the span of 30 games last year.
“She drives in a lot of runs for us and hits a lot of balls out. She is definitely somebody that teams have to respect in our lineup,” Calbert noted. “We’ll have to make that up by team effort. It will be hard for any one individual to step in that spot, but team wise we’ll just have to play like we did in that championship game.”
Calbert hopes the injury bug can be avoided for all of his players going forward and overall, he is excited to see what this club can do.
“We hit the ball hard, we run well, we steal some bases and we can bunt. We can do a lot of things and it makes it a fun team to watch and a very, very fun team to coach,” the skipper remarked.
Perhaps it is the confidence displayed by the coaching staff that helped the Lakers get off to a good start in the first place.
“They (coaching staff) just told us that they know our capability, our potential and how great we can be. They just made sure to give us a lot of confidence and encouraged us to do the best that we could,” Fayth said. “We definitely feel like we can do anything now.”