The Monroe City softball team won all three tournaments it played in the regular season last year. Now the Lady Panthers want to make a postseason push.
McKenzie West has a simple mindset when she's in the circle.
The Monroe City senior takes on a bulldog attitude, and the rest of her teammates follow suit.
“You just have to go in from the very first pitch thinking you have to attack, get ahead and not let up the entire game,” said the star pitcher, who posted a 1.48 earned run average and 113 strikeouts in 109 innings last year.
West and a trio of fellow seniors lead the Lady Panthers into the 2018 campaign following a 20-4 record a season ago, when they were knocked out by Highland in the Class 2 district semifinals.
Monroe City carries only 11 players on its varsity roster to begin this fall — relying upon versatility and a tight-knit team atmosphere.
“It doesn't matter who I have out there or where they're at, I'm completely confident in all of them,” coach Melissa Chinn said. “There's just a really good team connection right now, and you hope that you have that. They push each other to be their best.”
Three Lady Panthers will again be forces in the starting lineup after posting batting averages higher than .400 last season.
Senior shortstop Skyler Kauble led the squad with a .474 average and 37 hits while driving in 16 runs last season, when she struck out just once in 87 plate appearances.
West, who plays center field when not pitching, looks to match or exceed her .468 average and team-leading 35 runs and 11 extra-base hits a year ago.
Sophomore Lauren Youngblood returns as the everyday second baseman after hitting .405 with 29 runs and 21 RBIs.
Riley Quinn is primed to serve as a run producer after leading the team with 31 RBIs last year, while Bailee Hays is back after driving in 23.
Rachel Smith serves as a catcher/third baseman hybrid and looks to pick up where she left off at the plate batting .355 with 21 RBIs last year.
Smith and Hays will split the catching responsibilities, often with one playing third if not behind the plate.
Quinn is expected to play a utility role that includes a timeshare at first base with Danielle Pfanner. Quinn will also get time in the outfield as well as pitching.
Montana Masterson will serve as another arm to be called upon to pitch. The sophomore played three games as a freshman last year but has yet to pitch at the varsity level.
Freshmen Carly Youngblood and Mackenzie Moss join senior Savannah Hetzler and sophomores Quinn and Masterson as a rotating committee in the Lady Panthers' outfield.
“There will not be a whole lot of people sitting on the bench,” Chinn said.
Monroe City will face strong competition in the Clarence Cannon Conference against contenders such as Centralia, Palmyra and Highland. Tough non-conference foes include Hannibal and Hickman.
Monroe City won all three regular-season tournaments it played last year.
Now the Lady Panthers want to make a postseason push.
“We want state,” West said of the No. 1 goal. “That's going to be very hard, but if we use all our potential, I think we can.”