MITCHELL SOFTBALL PREVIEW
LEDGER – Mitchell High School’s softball team will rely heavily on experience this season.
The Mountaineers return six seniors from last year’s team that went 4-13 overall and 2-10 in Western Highlands Conference play. There are three juniors on the roster and Danica Byrd and Shea Laws are the team’s only two sophomores.
Head coach Dawn Lowe said the team’s experience should be its biggest strength.
“We have players who have played a lot at the varsity level,” she said. “They’ve played a lot of games against tough teams.”
Mitchell’s top returning hitter is senior Shelby Twiddy. She appeared in all 17 games this past season and hit .405, drove in a team-high nine runs and hit the team’s only home run.
Lowe said Twiddy, who is primarily a catcher but can play multiple positions, will provide leadership. The Mountaineers also return seniors Emily Burleson (.300 average), Sierra Brown (.250) and Katie Wilson (.250).
“I had a meeting with our seniors and we talked about being good leaders,” Lowe said. “We talked about being an example for the younger players. We’re trying to create positivity in the program.”
Gracey Young, the team’s top base-stealer this past season, returns as a junior. She swiped a team-high eight bases as a sophomore.
Twiddy and Wilson also bring speed on the base paths – the two combined for six stolen bases this past season.
Mitchell returns its primary starting pitcher, junior Kaitlyn Sparks.
Sparks led the team in appearances with 15 this past season. She compiled a 2-6 record with a 12.99 ERA.
In 69 innings this past season, Sparks struck out a team-high 72 batters.
Lowe said Sparks had knee surgery this past summer while playing travel ball. The workload for Sparks will start slow but Lowe hopes she will be 100 percent by the end of March.
“She’s working on it,” Lowe said about Sparks. “She’ll probably pitch about half a game to start. She’s rehabbing and doing well.”
The Mountaineers open the season by playing three of their first four games on the road. After traveling to Madison for the season opener, the team travels to play the Asheville Trailblazers before the March 9 home opener against Polk County.