Aug. 13—The 2021 season was one to forget for Carl Junction softball.
But the Bulldogs are optimistic about the 2022 season with a healthy roster and influx of talent.
"We expect to have a successful season," said Carl Junction coach Zak Petty, who's entering his seventh year at the helm. "We dealt with tremendous injuries last year, and it was just an overall tough year for our program. This year, we have an influx of talent, even though we will be extremely young."
Carl Junction does have experience back with senior shortstop Sammie Sims returning from a broken leg. Juniors Izzie Southern (first baseman) and Hannah Cantrell (second baseman) also return to provide leadership.
Petty expects big things from sophomore catcher Madi Olds. Olds hit a team-leading .403 last year as a freshman.
"When thinking of our team leaders, Sammie stands out for me," Petty said. "Unfortunately, Sammie broke her leg the weekend before tryouts last year, which led to her missing her entire junior season. We not only missed her on the field, but just her presence with the team as a leader. She's an incredible kid. Great athlete, great student and a great person in our community.
"Hannah, Izzie and Madi are also players we view as leaders on our team."
In the circle, the Bulldogs will be young. Sophomore Hannah Cole and freshman Kiley Spencer are set to be Carl Junction's two primary arms.
"Hannah pitched the majority of our innings last year as a freshman and has continued to improve," Petty said. "Kiley will throw a lot of innings for us this year as well. Kiley had a really great year during our junior high season. She's got really good stuff and will continue to develop."
At third base, Carl Junction is looking at Georgia Arnold getting the majority of the time at the hot corner. Spencer will also get time at third when not in the circle.
The Bulldogs have sophomore Dezi Williams returning in left field. Freshman Ryleigh Palmer looks to start in center field.
Carl Junction has a position battle for right with senior Emma Fleming and sophomores Alivia Haase and Cole vying for time.
"I feel confident putting any of these girls out there, so the difference may be who can be a difference maker at the plate," Petty said.
Petty said he's excited about the potential his Bulldogs bring to the table, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
"I think this may be one of the better defensive teams I've had in the seven years I've been head coach," Petty said. "We're solid at all of our spots, and I think that will really benefit us this season. But we'll need consistency on offense. We've got a great mix of hitters that hit for average and power, as well as a lot of speed. Bottom line: we have to score runs."
Carl Junction opens the season in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 26-27 at Aurora.