By TONY EIERDAM
For the first time in four years, Lady Rams head coach David Tarver will go into a softball season not knowing what his opening day lineup will look like.
The Lady Rams lost key starters to graduation off of last year’s regional quarterfinalist team, including four-year letterman Chandler Ortiz and three-year letterman Reagan Patterson, perhaps the best catcher to ever play softball at MWHS.
In fact, the holes left by Chandler at second base and Patterson at catcher creates a huge void not only in the infield, but the batting order as well as both all-district, first-team players hit in the top part of the Lady Rams’ batting order.
The good news is the return of five starters – senior Bethany Allen, juniors Hope Patterson, Allie Stephens and Tabby Santibanez and sophomore Kelsey Keeton.
Returning players Addison Singleton, Anaiz Mendoza and Victoria Huffman will also add to the depth and they will challenge for starting spots.
Also vying for playing time will be sophomores Kaitlynn Brock, Jenny Seigler and Ashley Valdez, and freshman Airaca Graham.
But Tarver’s main concern will be how to replace Reagan Patterson. One of his options may sound unthinkable – moving first-team, all-state shortstop Allen to catcher and putting third baseman Hope Patterson at shortstop.
Thankfully for Tarver he has a few weeks of practice, four scrimmages, three tournaments and four other non-district games to figure out who his starters will be when District 6-3A play begins on March 11 at home against Castleberry.
The Lady Rams won the district championship in 2011 and have reached the third round of the playoffs the last two years with basically the same lineup.
“There are a lot of questions coming into this season,” Tarver said. “We lost a lot of girls to graduation who were key players on those three teams.
“We have had some younger girls step up in the last two years, but now we are in a situation where we do not know exactly who will be playing where.”