LAFAYETTE SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Experienced ‘Dores primed for big 2016

Published 6:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2016

Last year, Lafayette had one senior on its softball team. This year, the Commodores have five, the most in two years, when the Commodores were led by eight seniors in 2014.

That season, they made it to the MHSAA Class 4A North Half series before being ousted by Houston.

Head coach Katie Moore is expecting the same results this year, if not better.

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Last season, Lafayette finished third in Region 2-4A with a record of 5-3 and 13-15 overall. They were swept by Kosciusko in the first round of the playoffs.

“I feel like this group is very strong,” Moore said. “Because they are the first group I had when I first moved here, three of the seniors were eighth-graders that played, so they’ve been here with me for five years. So needless to say, they know the routine and they know what is expected.”

The Commodores are anchored by 2015 EAGLE Player of the Year Emily Robinson, Kylie Glass and Hope Patton.

Returning senior Shelbi Buford, who is playing just her second season of softball, and Bailey Purvis round out the group.

Robinson will be manning shortstop, Glass will be taking over duties at first base after lone senior Bethany Mills graduated last May, and Patton will be calling things from behind the plate.
The trio is among the many reasons defense is not a top concern for Moore heading into the season.

Pitching consistency
The defense may not be on the mind of Moore, but the circle in the middle of that infield definitely has her attention.

Lafayette has four pitchers on the roster with all of them being no older than a ninth-grader.

Three of the pitchers are freshmen, including returning starter and ace Lauren Jean Rives.

Rives had a record of  4-5 and an earned run average of 4.35 a season ago. She will not be the only one with pitching experience at the varsity level as former Oxford pitcher Chloe Russell transferred across town to Lafayette and will be considered the second pitcher in the Commodores’ rotation.

The two are joined by freshman Julia Grayce Bishop and seventh-grader Madisyn Cobbs.

“Consistency, that’ll be our issue on the mound or just to make sure we are,” Moore said. “With the four of them this year, I feel like we have way more depth up there. I feel like that at least between somebody that there’s a combo you can put out there and make the strikes and the pitches and everything work.”

With the added numbers to the pitching staff, Robinson may not have to come in as relief as she was needed to late in the season last year.

Returning power
With all but one starter returning this year, it also means a return of the power at the plate.

Lafayette hit 11 home runs last season, and all three girls responsible for them are returning. Robinson led with six home runs with Mariah Holland and Xhiir Burgess responsible for two each and Patton hitting one.

The Commodores had 208 runs batted in (RBI) with Robinson and Glass accounting for 100 of them.

The only issue Moore is dealing with offensively is figuring out where each hitter best fits in the lineup.

“There’s one or two spots still up for grabs,” Moore said. “Like I tell them all the time, from week to week, anybody can do anything. So it’s not always set, but right now what we’ve seen there’s two or three spots that could go either way.”

Lafayette opens the season against Olive Branch and South Pontotoc in the Classic Tournament held at Oxford on Saturday.