The Hannibal High School softball team finished undefeated Wednesday at the Mark Twain Area FCA Camp at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
Andrew Pollard circled a date on his calendar when he took over as the head coach of the Hannibal softball team.
For many people, Wednesday was just an average day in the summer.
Pollard, however, viewed the Mark Twain Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes Softball Camp at Hannibal-LaGrange University as an important step in preparing for the upcoming season.
The Lady Pirates look to build upon two straight appearances in the district championship game under Kendra Murphy, who resigned earlier this year to take over the Centralia program.
Pollard was promoted from his role as her assistant.
“I've been looking forward to this day since Easter when I got the job to see what we have and how we compete,” Pollard said. “So far, I'm impressed on every end of the spectrum. We were up to the challenge, and that gets me even more excited for the season.”
Hannibal finished undefeated Wednesday in three scrimmages, beating Louisiana 15-6, Highland 10-9 and West Platte 19-1.
The Lady Pirates came from behind for the victory over Highland. Hannibal scored six times in the third inning and once more in the fourth when Lauran Haye drove in the game-winning run.
Plating 44 runs in three games naturally gives the Lady Pirates confidence.
“I really enjoy playing with this team in the summer because it gives me a taste of how the fall will go and it's good for us to get the experience to go ahead and start playing with each other,” senior Josie Zeiger said. “When the season comes around, we're already that much more prepared than the teams we're facing.”
Zeiger will transition from second base to shortstop this season to plug a position vacated by Olivia Pfeifer, an all-state graduate who will continue her playing career at South Dakota State University.
Zeiger is a key returner for Hannibal after posting a .353 batting average and 31 RBIs last season.
“I don't know how I feel about it, but I'm willing to take over that role,” Zeiger said of her move to shortstop. “It's a completely different perspective from that side of the field. I think you get a lot more action over there, but I'm ready to take it on.”
Perhaps the most encouraging development Wednesday for the Lady Pirates came in the circle.
Senior Taylor Wilson and freshman Kylie McAfee combined to pitch all the innings and didn't allow a single walk.
“Taylor has had some varsity experience the past several years, so she knows what to expect,” Pollard said of his experienced hurler. “She's a great pitcher. She throws strikes. It's going to come down to our defense playing behind her.”
“I'm extremely impressed by Kylie,” Zeiger commented of McAfee. “I couldn't be more proud. She pitched a great game (against Louisiana), and her hitting is phenomenal already. I'm excited to see what she does from here.”
Sydney Hart is another emerging talent to keep an eye on as she is expected to take over as Hannibal's center fielder this season.
Hart stood out at the junior varsity level as a freshman last year.
“Sydney brings a lot with her speed,” Pollard said. “I really like what I saw last year in the JV games covering ground. Very decent arm, especially for a girl her size. She's going to run around like a chicken with her head cut off to get the ball, and I'm excited about that.”
There remains internal competition for the starting position at first base, as six Lady Pirates could figure to see time there this season.
Pollard pointed to first base as the biggest preseason question mark in his lineup.
“I want to give all the girls a chance to prove me wrong or right,” the new head coach said. “They will get a chance to face varsity-caliber pitchers and batters, and they have to prove to me that they can take that position.
“There are some girls who have been varsity three years, and we have some who this is their first time seeing varsity-caliber play. We're hopefully getting our lineup and positioning set for the Troy Tournament to start out the season.”