Previews for Palmyra, Monroe City, Mark Twain, Marion County and Hannibal entering this week's softball district playoffs.
Each of the past three seasons, a different Northeast Missouri team has moved on from the Class 2 district softball tournament. Monroe City survived Palmyra’s upset bid last season. South Shelby upset Highland two years ago, while Highland defeated Palmyra in 2014 to cap back-to-back titles.
The Class 2 District 7 Tournament gets underway at Monroe City on Wednesday with no clear-cut favorite.
Palmyra earned the top seed and enters with an overall record of 16-8.
Highland is the No. 2 seed with a 17-9 mark, while the host Lady Panthers will be the No. 3 seed with a 19-3 record.
But as this district has proven in the past, seeds and records do not mean much in the postseason.
In the past five seasons, only Highland (2014) and Palmyra (2012) have moved on to the sectional as the top seed in the district.
Palmyra is a perfect 5-0 against the field this season. Its 3-1 win over Monroe City back on Aug. 31 marked the first time Monroe City suffered defeat this season. And the Lady Panthers from the Flower City slipped by Highland 6-5 on Sept. 18 thanks in large part to a 5-run third inning.
Lady Panthers coach Jill Arch knows it won’t be easy getting the Lady Panthers' first district title since 2012.
“Our district is very strong once again this year,” the second-year coach said. “You can’t count anyone out, no team can be taken lightly as all have continued to improve throughout the season.”
Palmyra will face the winner of Louisiana and Clark County, who play in a first-round game.
Brooke Wilson, who received nine stitches in her right throwing hand in a loss to Canton two weeks ago, is the Lady Panthers' leader.
“Brooke is a great leader for us and has helped us earn the No. 1 seed,” the Lady Panthers coach said. “We are excited to see what happens this week.”
Highland enters the bracket as perhaps the hottest team. The Lady Cougars have won six straight including an impressive 5-0 win over Monroe City last week.
The high-powered Lady Cougars offense has seven players who are batting over .300 on the season, led by Becca Scott’s .518 average. Scott has socked seven home runs with 40 RBIs.
Lauren Merrell is Highland’s ace on the mound and has recorded 126 punchouts in 109 innings of work inside the circle this season.
Highland will face the winner of Mark Twain and Monroe City.
The Lady Panthers defeated Mark Twain 12-1 in five innings back on Aug. 21. It was the first game of the season for Monroe City and just the second for the Lady Tigers.
Mark Twain coach Kachina Hudson knows what kind of challenge her team is up against this week.
“They (Monroe City, Highland and Palmyra) are not in our conference so we are not too familiar with them, but we know they all are very solid teams,” the Lady Tigers coach said.
Monroe City coach Melissa Chinn mentioned having the right mindset will be the key to her squad's success.
“We just need to come out focused against each team,” the veteran Lady Panthers coach said. “We need to come out fighting and keep our heads on right.”
Clark County (11-12) and Louisiana (6-15) will kick off tournament play on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Lions Club Park in Monroe City.
The host Lady Panthers and Mark Twain will square off at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the second quarterfinal game.
The semifinal games will begin on Thursday starting at 4 p.m. with the championship game scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
In other area district play, Marion County opens up against Bucklin in the Class 1 District 10 Tournament at LaPlata on Wednesday.
The Lady Mustangs enter postseason with a 3-16 record and split their two regular season meetings with Bucklin.
“The game we lost to them, we lost in the last inning on errors,” Marion County coach Erin Cunningham said. “But if we play like we did last night (13-7 win over North Shelby Monday night) we will have a good chance of moving on.”
Marion County defeated Bucklin 7-4 on Sept. 11 before dropping an 8-7 decision on Sept. 23.
With a win Wednesday, the Lady Mustangs would face top seeded LaPlata on Thursday.
Hannibal plays host to the Class 3 District 8 Tournament. The Lady Pirates (14-10) will open up play on Thursday against Fulton.
The two teams split their regular season meetings.
Fulton came away with a 7-6 win on Aug. 28, while Hannibal won on its own senior night 8-3 a month later.
“In the game we lost to them we made a lot of errors and shouldn’t have lost that game,” Lady Pirates coach Kendra Murphy said. “Then we took care of business on our home field for senior night but they were without two of their players so we know they are going to be out to get us this time.”
Area softball team capsules
Vs. the field: 0-2
Players to watch: McKenzie Lathrom (.345 avg, 11 runs); Lynsie Boling (10 RBI); Sydnee Brothers (5.46 ERA, 43 Ks).
Quote: “We will need to play as a team, come with intensity and be emotional.” -- Lady Tigers coach Kachina Hudson.
Vs. the field: 4-2
Players to watch: Skyler Kauble (.471 avg, 14 R, 26 RBI); McKenzie West (.448 avg, 31 R, 1.50 ERA, 108 Ks); Lauren Youngblood (.391 avg, 18 RBI, 27 R); Riley Quinn (29 RBI, 17 R); Rachel Smith (.357 avg, 19 RBI, 25 R).
Quote: "For us to win we need to play solid defense, focus on the pitch we want to hit and score when we have runners in scoring position. If we play how we are capable of then we should do well.” -- Lady Panthers head coach Melissa Chinn.
Vs. the field: 5-0
Players to watch: Brooke Wilson (.477 avg, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 8 2B); Lexi Arch (.369 avg, 19 RBI, 21 R); Megan Stone (.333 avg, 17 RBI, 27 R, 2 HR, 7 2B); Bailey Lovelace (.321 avg, 19 RBI, 21 R); Alana Comstock (2.40 ERA, 75 Ks).
Quote: “I think the biggest key to us winning the next two games will be our self discipline at the plate and scoring runs. Our pitchers are pitching well and are defense has been solid behind them.” -- Palmyra coach Jill Arch.
Vs. the field: 2-4
Players to watch: Payton Hays (.367 avg, 9 RBI, 14 R); Makayla Corey (.356 avg, 6 RBI, 10 R); Makenzie Crook (.293 avg, 16 R).
Quote: “If we play like we played in the last game of the regular season (Monday night), I like our chance of moving on. I liked what I saw out of the girls which is good going into the district. I am also liking the way the middle of our lineup is starting to step up and produce as well.” -- Marion County coach Erin Cunningham.
Vs. the field: 3-4
Players to watch: Olivia Pfeifer (.518 avg, 20 RBI, 43 R, 37 SB, 5 2B, 7 3B); Josie Zeiger (.375 avg, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 22 R); Taylor Simms (.293 avg, 15 RBI, 20 R); Desarae Garcia (4.45 ERA, 93 Ks).
Quote: “We are going to have to stay consistent with our hitting and put the pressure on teams early. We have done much better in games when we score early and often. It takes pressure off our defense. Just a matter of putting runs on the board and keep putting runs on the board.” -- Hannibal coach Kendra Murphy.