RHS set to open season Wednesday at Cuba.
To say the Rolla High School softball team will have a new look this fall is putting it mildly.
There has been major turnover in personnel for the Lady Bulldogs.
And the new-look squad is hoping for some similar results when it begins the season this week.
Rolla is scheduled to open its schedule on Wednesday at Cuba. The Lady 'Dogs then host Jefferson City Helias on Thursday and St. James on Friday.
RHS is coming off another outstanding season, during which they finished 19-5 overall, captured their fourth straight Ozark Conference championship (third straight unbeaten league mark, including a current 30-game conference winning streak) and won the Missouri Class 4 District 10 Tournament title before falling to Columbia Hickman in the sectional playoffs.
Gone from that team are four-year starters in pitcher Andrea Zalis, third baseman Brittany Jones, second baseman Shakira Gonzalez and shortstop Boh Rafter, among others.
"We're not real young but we're very inexperienced," said RHS head coach Tim Dunn. "We have a lot of kids learning the difference between the varsity and junior varsity speed of the game."
The cupboard is not bare, however. Rolla has several players with varsity experience, including seniors Anna Feeler and Sydney Wells, both four-year starters and the leaders of this year's squad. Feeler is in her fourth year as Rolla's catcher while Wells is moving from left to center field.
"We've been fortunate every year for the last five or six years to have players step up with leadership," Dunn said. "Anna brings stability to the whole team, especially to the infield. She knows everything that is going on and doesn't get rattled. And she brings an offensive and defensive set that is the best we've had at catcher, and some of the best in the state.
"Sydney has always been very solid and very consistent. The same thing that Anna is in the infield, Sydney is in the outfield. We're moving Sydney to a home run-producing role as our No. 3 hitter. And she's a great defensive player."
This will be the first time in a half-dozen years the Lady Bulldogs are not depending on one of the area's established top pitchers, although Dunn feels senior Jade DeShurley is going to be fine in the pitching circle this fall.
DeShurley takes over for Zalis as Rolla's No. 1 pitcher. And when she is not throwing, Rolla's No. 2 starter is sophomore Skylar Turner.
"The most important thing is not to put pressure on her," Dunn said of DeShurley. "So far she's done a good job and continues to work hard. Jade has a good fastball and a developing change that has looked real good. It's just a matter of getting her used to being the main pitcher."
At first base Rolla has senior Brooke Maxwell and sophomore Taylor Hance managing things.
Senior Baeleigh Barr figures to be the new second baseman, with Maxwell also playing there.
Junior Avery Landers takes over full-time at shortstop.
Senior Amy Black is at third base, along with senior Kaitlyn Settles.
In leftfield sr. Maegan Ray is back while Wells is in center and junior Kayla Reed in right.
Sophomores Meredith Sowers and Tuner are other infielders and pitchers that should get some varsity time.
"We felt coming in we had to have some kids step up to accomplish some things," Dunn said. "Kayla Reed has stepped up to be the leadoff hitter and Ray has been very solid offensively in the two-hole and on defense. Our outfield really covers a lot of ground. And Avery has stepped in at shortstop and has played well."
Reed, Ray, Wells and Feeler figure to be 1-2-3-4 in the RHS batting order.
Last season Feeler batted .532 as the RHS cleanup hitter, with 42 hits, 28 runs scored, eight doubles, three triples, three homers and 30 RBI. In the field she threw out 38 percent of would-be base stealers. Wells batted .344 last season.
Lady Bulldog schedule:
Aug 28...at Cuba, 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 29...Jefferson City Helias, 5 p.m.
Aug. 30...St. James, 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 31...Springfield Kickapoo JV Tourney, tba
Sept. 3...Pleasant Hope, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 5...Springfield Parkview, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 6...Union, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 9...at Springfield Glendale, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 10...Joplin, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 12...at West Plains, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 13-14...Ozark Tourney, tba
Sept. 16...at Springfield Kickapoo, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 19...at Camdenton, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 20...at Jefferson City, 4 p.m.
Sept. 23...Springfield Hillcrest, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 26...Lebanon, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 27...Crocker, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 30...at Waynesville, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 3...at Sullivan, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 4-5...Rolla Invitational, 9 a.m.
Oct. 9-13...District Tourney, tba