Neosho swinging for better than predicted finish

JOHN GIFFIN

Sports editor

Coming off a 14-16 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, 18-27 overall season, the Neosho County Community College Panther softball team is picked to finish ninth by the Jayhawk Conference coaches.

With several players returning with experience from 2014 season, that is not where Panther Head Softball Coach Kim Alexander expects her squad to finish. 

“I see us in the top, at least one through five,” Panther Head Coach Kim Alexander said. “We were young. We had one sophomore on the field. The rest were freshman.”

The goal for Alexander and the Panthers is to win conference and make a trip to National Junior College Athletic Association Div. II Softball National Championship in Clinton, Miss., for District play, 

“I definitely think we can do that,” Alexander said. “I think we have a lot of quality in all these girls. They can do a lot of good things for us.” 

Region VI teams play at Hummer Park in Topeka. Whether Neosho competes in District D or E will depend on record. The first round is hosted by teams at the top of the Region.

The top of the lineup includes sophomore infielder Tia Parker in the lead off slot and utility Tiara Ewy in the two hole. 

“With those two, when they are both on, they’re hard outs,” Alexander said. “(Parker) gets on and you can wither move her over or she steals. They do a really good job together.”

Another sophomore that is returning is outfielder Jozie Garner. She suffered an injury in her freshman season

“She has a lot of speed,” Alexander said. “I see her doing great things in the outfield and also at the dish.”

Sophomore Becki Hendrickson returns for the Panthers. She played in centerfield last season and will play in the outfield and at short stop this season.

“She does a great job in the field,” Alexander said. “Covers a lot of ground in the outfield.”

Sophomore first baseman Anna Crawford will be the top hitter for Neosho, Alexander said.

Three sophomore pitchers return for Neosho with Meaghan Thompson (RHP) in position to serve as the Panthers’ ace.

“I think she’ll do a good job for us,” Alexander said. “I think she’ll probably be our No. 1.  Sophomores Lexie Heiniger (RHP/OF), Amanda Rodriguez (RHP/OF) and freshman Geena Harris (RHP) are expected to see time as the No. 2 starter. Rodriguez and Heiniger will also see time out of the bullpen.

“They did a great job for us this fall,” Alexander said. “Geena was a little hurt over the fall with her knee so she didn’t get as much pitching time in the fall season, but I definitely think she’ll do a good job for us this spring.”

At third base, freshman Taylor Bolden will highlight the newcomers. Another freshman, Taylor Pence will see time in the outfield and at first base.

“(Bolden’s) going to come in and hit in the top of our line up and do a good job for us,” Alexander said. “(Pence) can run a little bit. She has speed. She hits from the left side so she can hit with power. She can slap.”

After a trip to Weatherford, Texas, for the Coyote Chillout this weekend Neosho returns to Chanute for a matchup with women’s college Crowger College in Chanute Feb 25 at 2 p.m. for the home opening doubleheader. On Feb. 26 Neosho goes back on the road to Warner, Okla. to face Connors State College. The first KJCCC match up for the Panthers is March 3 against Kansas City Kansas Community College.

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