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The Liberty ladies have much to anticipate.
True, the team graduated one of the finest pitchers to ever hurl the tater for the Minettes.
Yes, the team graduated some fine leadership, as well.
But, the Liberty crew is a skilled one; young, but with buckets of experience.
In fact, the team should be poised to do well over the next couple of years.
But the focus, of course, is on this upcoming season. And, going in, the Lady Minutemen look solid.
The big question coming out of the blocks is: How do they replace Cassidy Hensley?
For those with short memories, Hensley was the four-year starting pitcher for Liberty. "She was one of the best pitchers in this area," her former head coach, Jeff Monroe, recalled fondly.
Along with fellow graduate (and first baseman) Kelsey Dooley, Hensley supplied valuable leadership.
Both losses must be addressed if the team is to make its mark in the post-season this year.
In the pitching circle, Monroe will hand the ball to Kasey Carr. "She doesn't have to replace Cassidy," said Monroe. "She just has to be the best Kasey she can be."
A stellar shortstop last year (All Seminole District First Team), and a superb three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball), Carr was seemingly born to play softball. She could easily play any position and brings a five-pitch portfolio to the circle.
Of course, Carr's shift to pitching leaves a hole at shortstop. Morgan Newbrough, who started in right field last year, seems up for the task. The sophomore is very athletic and has a strong arm.
Completing the middle infield will be MaHalea Scicchitano. She may have the team's hardest name to spell, but she may have the smoothest glove. Certainly, she's the best bunter on the team. Look for her to plug in at the #2 slot in the lineup.
Ashley Hamilton started at third last year, her first year playing the position. Well, she took to it like a duck to water (.900 fielding percentage), and will be back at the hot corner in this, her junior year. Monroe sees her as potentially one of the top hitters in the Seminole District.
Dooley's replacement at first will be either Allyson Crockett or Brianna Whorley. Crockett started in left field last year as a freshman, when she batted a nifty .370. The best thing about that average is that many of her hits came when they were most needed.
Versatile in the field and timely in the hitting department: You've got to like a player such as Crockett.
Whorley has a lot of upside, and her presence on the squad gives Monroe a lot of room to flex his lineup.
Behind the plate you'll find Sam Baldwin, who is beginning her senior season, capping off a sensational run for Liberty. "Slammin' Sammy" is, easily, the most powerful batwswoman on the team. But don't try to peg her as only a home run hitter. Sure she can knock the cover off the tater.
But, the Roanoke College-bound basher is a knowledgeable player, and one whom the rest of the team is likely to look at as a leader. She was an All District Second Team choice last year.
Speaking of leadership, Kim Sharrett returns to center field to see if she can repeat her All Seminole District/All Region III freshman year.
Sharrett batted over .400 for most of last season. In the field, she showed that she can cover a lot of ground. Blessed with limitless potential, Sharrett also brings a great level of enthusiasm to all that she does.
Also likely to find time in the outfield are Haley Maxfield and Hailey Wright. Maxfield brings a big arm to the mix, while Wright has a crisp swing at the plate.
Katelyn Howell, the only other senior besides Baldwin, was a big help last year in DH and pinch hit duties. One of the better hitters on the team, she should continue to bring that experience to the plate.
Junior Brooke Friess, up from JV last year, rounds out the roster. A good hitter, she should have no problem finding playing time.
With seven starters back, things look rosy for Liberty. Its strong defense bodes well for an improvement of last year's mark of 17-5.