If you turn out for a Cassville High School girls softball game this year, you might discover some meanness. Well not exactly, but a renewed toughness is something that new head coach Tony Eagleburger and his team are looking for.
"We want to be a little meaner, a little tougher this year," said Coach Eagleburger whose team has picked up the "Mean Girls" title.
Last year Cassville struggled. The Ladycats had a hard time finding consistency, often winning a big game but losing others. Cassville ended the season with an overall record of 7-16.
With graduation, Cassville lost only two players but those two players garnered two of Cassville's three All-Conference and All-District selections.
Cassville does retain possibly their most important asset. Senior Brittany Vollenweider is the Ladycats only returning All-District or All-Conference selection. Vollenweider was Cassville's top pitcher last year and aims to do the same this season.
In addition to last season's awards, Vollenweider was impressive during summer play. The senior led Cassville's summer team with a 1.00 earned run average and amassed 43 strikeouts in just 28 innings of work.
Vollenweider looks to be backed by freshman standout Lindsey Turner. This summer, Turner, who also plays shortstop, had a 1.65 ERA.
Sophomore Chelsea Krallman will also give Cassville another option this season at pitcher. In fact Krallman gives Cassville options at all positions as she is listed as a pitcher/infielder/outfielder.
"As a head coach in softball I have never had any better pitching than I have right now," said Coach Eagleburger when asked about his team's strengths.
All in all Cassville has at least seven players back who started in a game last year and eight that lettered.
Junior Jessie Meadows headlines that list. Meadows, a junior centerfielder for Cassville, was a hitting machine this summer, batting .333 with five RBI and three extra-base hits.
Dakota Bowman, another junior, also tops the list. Bowman scored six runs this summer and had four RBI.
Others returning letterwinners include: senior Brittney Gatley, first base; junior Annie Coupland, second base; junior Ariel Abramovitz, outfield/infield; and junior Courtney Beagle, outfield/infield.
In addition to the old faces, the squad also has added some new ones.
Leah Denton, a freshman, is one of the players to watch. Denton, who played the summer with Cassville, had an incredible eye, leading the summer team with a .458 on-base percentage.
Other promising newcomers include senior catcher Grace Salazar, freshman catcher/infielder/outfielder Taylor Grimes, freshman outfielder Ariel Gonzalez and freshman infielder/outfielder Caylyn Cieslinski.
Cassville will hope to rely on their good pitching to help them win games this year. "Our main strength is pitching," said Eagleburger.
The area where Eagleburger would like to see improvement is on offense.
"We need to be able to score more runs, but at this point, I am extremely pleased with what I am seeing," said Eagleburger.
Cassville has beefed up its schedule this year adding Webb City and Republic. Webb City was the Class 3 state champions in 2004 and followed that up with a quarterfinal appearance in 2005. Last year they finished as runners up in District 12. Republic won Cassville's district last year and has made the state playoffs for the last three consecutive years. In addition to those teams Cassville also has to play Seneca who finished second in the state last year.
The squad believes that this type of competition will make the Ladycats stronger in districts.
"Our goal is to be playing our best ball by Mid-to-late September," said Eagleburger.
Assisting Coach Eagleburger this year will be Randy Robertson.
"I am very fortunate to have him," said Eagleburger. "He's already forgotten more about coaching than I'll ever even know."
The softball Ladycats are set to begin the 2007 season on Monday, Aug. 20 when they host Wheaton. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, the squad will travel to play Republic. All home games will be played at the Aquatic Center Park and usually begin at 4:30 p.m.