The Marion County softball team has yet to play an official game this season but the Lady Mustangs are already a step ahead of last season.

For the past two seasons, Marion County has played each game with the absolute bare minimum number of players required without having to forfeit — eight. This season the Mustangs have nine players on their roster, enough for every position to be filled.

Six of the nine players return from last season’s 2-17 campaign.

“We’ve battled the low numbers the last three or four seasons, but we have some experience returning this season,” Lady Mustangs coach Erin Cunningham mentioned. “We have both our pitchers from last year, our catcher, first baseman, second baseman and third baseman.”

Senior Makayla Corey and sophomore Deanna Huffman return inside the circle for the Lady Mustangs.

“Deanna is probably our best pitcher with the most speed and accuracy on the team,” Cunningham stated.

Payton Hays will see time behind the dish, while Makenzie Crook (1B), Dusty Arment (2B), Kaylin Glapsie (SS) and Corey (3B) will make up the Lady Mustangs infield.

“I feel like our infield should be fairly strong this season,” Cunningham said. “We will need to work on our fly balls in the outfield, which seems to be our weak spot right now.”

Corey led the team at the plate last season with a .395 batting average.

“She doesn’t have a lot of speed on her pitches but she can give us some innings when we need her to,” Cunningham noted. “But she is a strong batter, she hits the ball hard.”

Cunningham mentioned she has been impressed with the improvement of the offense during practices so far.

“We have been working really hard on a lot of our hitting drills, and I have already seen a lot of improvement from the girls in that department,” she said.

New to the Mustangs this season are juniors Sadie Spratt and Elizabeth Corey and freshman Delaney Huffman.

Spratt and Corey both “played when they were younger but have been away from the game for a few years,” while Huffman has experience playing travel ball, according to Cunningham.

The veteran coach, who is starting her 14th season in charge of the Lady Mustangs program, mentioned all six of her returning players and the younger Huffman have really stepped up to teach the inexperienced two.

“We had to go out and get the final two players just to have a complete team,” the coach explained. “But I am extremely proud of the way the returning players have been good leaders and showing the new players what needs to be done. They are pulling them aside and working 1-on-1 with them a lot, which is always good to see.”

Cunningham mentioned the team goals for this season are basic.

“We’d like to win more than two games, but we have to first learn to play seven innings,” she said. “We have to be able to communicate well with each other and stay positive the whole game.

“We know we are not going to win them all. We just want to leave each game knowing we did our best and didn’t give up. We want to win games, but we also want to come out here and have some fun as well.”

The Lady Mustangs open the season Aug. 22 at Novinger.