Throughout the next week, the Gazette will preview each county school for the upcoming slow pitch softball season. No place better to start than with the defending 1A state champions of West Union.
Many new faces will grace a young Lady Eagle squad, but do not be fooled by their youth, as Lisa Bogue’s squad returns several starters from last season.
Juliana Garner, Leah Paige Goolsby and Danielle Taylor will once again anchor the infield, and Bogue is looking for their bats to pace the West Union offense.
“They’ve been successful with their bats, so we hope that continues,” she said. “We’re hoping that some of the younger girls will step up as well and fill in the spots left void by last year’s seniors.”
The Lady Eagles lost eight seniors from the championship squad, but several fast pitch standouts will join slow pitch this season, including Hannah McQuary.
“We have Hannah, who I think will really contribute to the team, along with Gina Beth Conlee, who only played fast pitch last year. Bailey (Bogue) and Britney (Taylor) are two coming back who both put time in last year,” she said.
“We have some young girls who haven’t had the playing experience because we had so many seniors last year, which is good and bad, kind of a double edge sword. Hopefully they’ll step it up and we’ll compete.”
The big question is at pitcher, as Rachel Baker was among the graduating group. Bogue spent the first day of practice trying different players out for the position.
“That is the big question; the question of the day. Today, we’re just going to put everyone on the mound and tell them ‘show me what you’ve got.’ We’ve got to find a varsity pitcher and a JV pitcher. We have a lot of new girls coming out, so who knows, maybe we’ll find a diamond in the rough,” she said.
West Union’s division will again include Myrtle, Coldwater, H.W. Byers and Blue Mountain. Focusing on one game at a time, the Lady Eagles are confident they can make another championship run if they first accomplish their goal of making the playoffs.
“If we can make the playoffs, we’ll see what happens, but we’ve got to accomplish our first goal of getting there,” Bogue said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time and see how it goes.”
West Union will play in preseason action at the Myrtle tournament on August 14. The Lady Eagles will open their title defense on August 17, playing at Ingomar.
West Union has big non-division contests scheduled for September 24 against North Pontotoc, September 27 against Tupelo, and traveling to East Union on September 28.