With only two seniors on a roster featuring 22 players, Carthage’s softball team is obviously fairly young in 2014. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

With only two seniors on a roster featuring 22 players, Carthage’s softball team is obviously fairly young in 2014. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

The Tigers this fall have more depth than they’ve had in years, according to head coach Mike Godfrey. While in past season there’s been a significant drop off after the starting nine, this year Carthage is 11 or 12 players deep, and there’s not much of a drop off after that.

“That’s been a real positive,” Godfrey said after practice Wednesday.

Carthage returns the core of a team that went 8-10 in the regular season in 2013. The Tigers lost to Joplin in the first round of their district tournament. It all starts with two of the most important positions on the field: pitcher and catcher. Junior Megan Taylor logged most of the innings on the mound last season, as did senior Tyesha Morgan behind the plate. There are others, like two-year starter Mika Bolton, a junior. She played first base last year and is slated into the outfield right now. Mykah Schrader, a sophomore, played center field last season and is currently playing on the infield. Sophomore Tyra Felty, another outfielder from 2013, will see time in both the outfield and infield this year. Kensey Sageser, a sophomore, served primarily as the team’s designated hitter last season; this year she’ll probably be at first base. There’s also Rylee Parrish, another sophomore who started in the outfield and will be somewhere on the infield this year and could also help pitch.

“We’ve got a couple freshmen who are going to be able to help us, too,” Godfrey said. “Kylie Mueller has been looking good at third. Alexis Paynter is doing a really good job at shortstop, third and second. She’s pretty versatile. Andi Morris is doing a good job at second. We’ll have some options, and then there’s Kenzie Willis, a junior, who once she gets healthy she’ll probably be one of our outfielders.”

Even without Amy Keller, Mariah Thrasher and Leigh Ann Craig, who all graduated, Godfrey’s optimistic with the experience he does have back.

“They love to play and that’s half of it,” he said. “They just really enjoy it. They want to learn. Most of them have had a good offseason and gotten to play some. I feel good about it. We’re really young but we’re kind of an experienced young at the same time. Our freshmen, they’re not playing like freshmen right now so that’s good.”

The team’s strength could be its defense. Even with the youth, Godfrey expects the Tigers will make routine the routine plays and not hurt themselves in the field. Taylor will deliver strong pitching, and Carthage could be a better hitting team this fall.

“We’ve got five girls who can really drive the ball pretty well and the others handle the bat really well,” Godfrey said. “I’m pretty optimistic right now. We’re not physical specimens. We’re not six feet and 170 pounds or anything. We’ve got some little girls but good softball players.”

Work to enlarge and improve the dugouts at Carthage’s field at the Fair Acres Sports Complex should be done within a few days. Everything should be ready for Monday’s season opener at home against Lamar. The Tigers have seven home games scheduled, in addition to the Carthage Invitational in October. They’ll play seven games on the road, and two tournaments.

“It’s basically the same as last year,” Godfrey said. “MSHSAA tacked on a week of practice at the beginning of the season which is going to end up helping us I think quite a bit. It’s been good. Hopefully we make up more ground than our competition in that extra week. As far as the schedule goes we’re in the same tournaments and once we get rolling next week we’re hot and heavy. We play a lot and don’t get to practice very much. It’s fun and fast.”