GRANBY — The East Newton Lady Patriots have their fourth head coach in as many years with new head man Jordan Savage following Jamey Gilion, Shelby Romines, and Shawn Trent, who guided East Newton to a school-record 15 wins last season.
East Newton graduated five seniors from that squad, but the Lady Patriots do return senior pitcher and infielder Natalie Oxendine, senior utility Robin Hussong, junior first baseman Kaitlyn Hailey, and sophomore infielder Kayla Higginbotham.
Additionally, junior outfielders Macy Bowman and Emily Hance, sophomore pitcher and infielder Katie Kester, sophomore second baseman and outfielder Kaytin Brown, freshman catcher and utility Makenna Brasier, freshman catcher and utility Kenzie Massey, freshman first and third baseman Baylee Anderson, and freshman outfielder Liz Barratt are newcomers that look to build on the success of the previous season.
“I look for us to have a very successful season and build upon last fall’s win total,” Savage said. “We look to have the ability to be very solid defensively well as having a good amount of speed throughout our lineup. My expectations are very high for this group and I hope to meet those expectations.
“Defense will be our biggest strength heading into the season. Our ability to pitch as well as the speed we can play with allows us a lot of range in both the infield and outfield.
“Offseason workouts were successful. We were able to get in the weight room to improve our strength and speed, as well as compete on the field in the Monett Summer League. This offseason set us up for a very good start to the season.
“Playing in the Big 8 seems to come with challenges every single game. It is hard to say who is the toughest opponent overall. Playing a schedule featuring McDonald County, Monett, Marshfield, and Reeds Spring, just to name a few, is going to be very challenging but also very exciting for the girls.”
Oxendine enjoyed a great junior season both in the circle and at the plate. Offensively, her numbers included a .421 batting average with 40 hits, 13 doubles, one home run, 22 RBI, and a .447 on-base.
“Natalie Oxendine really stands out when it comes to the ability to control the game while pitching as well as having the ability to win a game for herself at the plate,” Savage said. “She sets the table for us and has taken the reins as the team leader.”
Hussong hit a homer and drove in 13 runs last season, while Hailey drove in 12 RBI and Higginbotham stole six bases.
“Last year’s team was dominated by five seniors, “ Savage said, “which is something very different from this year. With only three seniors and a very large freshman class, the overall experience level of this team is completely different from last year.
“For this season to be successful, staying healthy and focused is our main priority. We have a very young team overall and their ability to adjust to the varsity level will be very big for us moving forward.”
East Newton opens its season Tuesday at home against McDonald County.
The Lady Patriots have dropped to Class 2 this season and have Butler, El Dorado Springs, Lamar, and Warsaw in District 12.
Aug. 28 — vs. McDonald County
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 — Commerce Tournament
Sept. 4 — vs. Marshfield
Sept. 6 — at Monett
Sept. 7-8 — Ozark Tournament
Sept. 10 — vs. Joplin
Sept. 11 — vs. Aurora
Sept. 17 — at Logan-Rogersville
Sept. 18 — at Cassville
Sept. 20 — vs. Reeds Spring
Sept. 25 — at Nevada
Sept. 27 — vs. Seneca
Oct. 1 — at Aurora
Oct. 2 — vs. Lamar
Oct. 4 — at Neosho
Oct. 5-6 — Carthage Tournament