Graduation has taken away the entire outfield, second and third base, but coach Kelly Jackson has hopes that the new faces in camp will step up and fill in

WAYNESVILLE — The softball coaches in Waynesville are both excited and concerned at the same time for this season's squad.

Excited, because of the young talent they see coming up.

Concerned by the amount of turnover they had following last season.

Six seniors graduated in May, leaving the entire outfield up for grabs as well as second and third base.

“We'll definitely need people to step up and play some outfield for us,” Waynesville coach Kelly Jackson said. “It's going to be kind of tough to replace some of those outfielders with the speed they had. They even did it at the plate as well.”

That's not to say the Tigers won't have a good, solid core in place.

Senior pitcher Diamond Thomas returns with her anchor at the plate, Katelynn Miller, who is also a senior.

“We're going to revolve around [Diamond],” Jackson said. “If we can put a few runs on the board [when she pitches] we should be fine.”

Two other seniors, Elizabeth Switzer and Deyza Mason, will be back as well. They will probably see time in multiple positions.

Jackson has had one move-in courtesy of Fort Leonard Wood. Maddie Hashagen comes in from New York and will be a junior this year. She will also be asked to move around.

It has been tough for Jackson to tell any of her players where they will be playing for sure. She hasn't seen enough of them yet.

“We haven't had a chance to get everyone here,” Jackson said. “We've been trying to get doubleheaders on Thursday nights, but rainouts, summer camps and now there's a national tournament being played so that takes away some of our girls. We just can't get all our girls together at the same time so we can move them around and see what works.”

One great trend she is seeing has been younger girls coming out to camp.

Last season, Jackson remembers one freshman that showed up.

This year, there's been about three. It's baby steps, but she'll take it.

“They're very talented girls who will be an asset to this program,” Jackson said. “If everything falls in place, they'll see some considerable playing time.”

Paige Johnson and Morgan Loggins (Dustin Loggins' younger sister, who is a minor league pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks organization) are two of the freshmen. They have been attending camp rather frequently.

Whoever the Tigers can plug in, they're going to have to live up to the expectation of getting to the district championship for the third time in a row.

And they're hoping third time's the charm.

Last year they lost in the championship (finishing the season 11-11) to Willard and Rolla the year before that.

It's not that Waynesville sputters going in either, it's just running into tough pitching in the championship round.

“It seems like we start to gel when it gets to district time,” Jackson said. “We put a lot of 6, 7, 8 runs on the board and Diamond would hold [opponents] down.”

Then, in the times they were having troubles, they would score one or two runs. There was no in-between it seemed.

Maybe some fresh faces will help buck that trend.