The Maple Woods Monarchs softball team kicks off their season on February 14 at Allen County. With six sophomores leading the way, the Monarchs look to continue their upward tick in wins the last two seasons with a winning campaign and a Region 16 championship.
Sophomore pitcher Liz Roccaro (Lee’s Summit HS) leads the way on the pitching mound for MW. Roccaro will look to repeat her successful freshman campaign where she led the Monarchs in games started (25), innings pitched (148), wins (13), ERA (3.36) strikeouts (155, good for 31st in the nation and 18th in the nation in strikeouts per game in 2016). She also hit .250 with one homerun in her freshman season. Two freshmen, Tara Prindle (Liberty HS) and Alyssa Schulte (Jefferson City HS) will also be counted on heavily in the pitchers circle. Sophomore Felicia Gwinn (Ft. Osage HS) will also see innings in spot relief duty just like in 2016.
Defense will once again be a strength for MW, as the team finished the 2016 season 14th in the nation in fielding percentage at .957. The sophomore middle infield tandem of SS Gwinn and 2nd baseman Lexi Kobett (Bishop LeBlonde HS) anchor the infield. Gwinn started 33 games as a freshman, and committed only five errors. Kobett spent her freshmen season hitting the 2-hole and led the team in sacrifice bunts, but will be called upon to hit in the middle of the lineup in 2017. As a freshman she started 34 games and led all freshmen with a .314 batting average and six doubles. Freshman Hillary Protzman (Liberty HS) will step in at 3rd base for Missouri Valley College signee Autumn Hughes, with freshman Jenelle Mausbach also seeing time there when she’s not roaming the outfield. Taking over at 1st base for 2017 will be Butler CC transfer Lexi Hanson (Platte County HS). Sophomore utility player Allie Collier (Oak Grove HS) can fill in at 2nd base, 1st base, and at pitcher, and also will see time at the designated player spot in the lineup. As a freshman she hit .222 with two doubles and also saw action on the mound in 11 games. Freshmen who add depth to the infield include Micheia Gutierrez (Grain Valley HS) at both 2nd base and shortstop, and Allie Cook at 1st base (Raytown HS).
The Monarchs outfield features Park University signee sophomore Kaylin Brooks (Winnetonka HS) in centerfield. Brooks will replace Park University signee Bailey Guiles in centerfield. The speedster will most likely take over at the leadoff spot. In 2016 she led the Monarchs in stolen bases with 14 and hit .282 in 27 starts. The corner spots will be anchored by freshmen Sierra Harding (Liberty HS), Mausbach, and Steph Maddick (Smithville HS). Freshman Ceianna Edwards (Bevier HS) also will see time in the outfield.
The Monarchs pitching staff has a very capable catching corps to pitch to, with sophomore Sam Minnick (Oak Grove HS) leading the way. Minnick saw action in 34 games as a freshman, starting 29 of them, and hit .304 with five doubles. Hannah Hirschvogel teams up with fellow Jefferson City HS teammate Schulte to form a formidable battery combination. Freshman Kaile Sipple (North Kansas City HS) will fight for time as well behind the plate.
The 2017 Monarchs schedule features the several pre-season nationally ranked teams, including 2016 NJCAA Division I National Champion and pre-season #2 Butler (March 7), #16 and Region 16 opponent Jefferson College (April 7 and 23), #11 Labette (NJCAA Division II; February 25 and April 14), and #13 Highland (NJCAA Division II; February 21). The Region 16 Tournament is slated for April 28/29 at Battle HS in Columbia, MO, with the winner moving on to face the District 11 Champion May 6/7.
In 2016 Brooks, a Winnetonka HS graduate, led the Monarchs in stolen bases, going 14-15 on stolen base attempts, to lead the team. In her freshman campaign, the speedy Brooks played in 34 games, starting 27, hit .282, and scored 25 runs.
Sophomore 3rd baseman Autumn Hughes was named to 1st team All-Region 16 at the Region 16 banquet. The 3rd baseman and leadoff hitter from Savannah, MO started all 46 games for the Monarchs, and led the Monarchs in batting average (.389), hits (56), doubles (13), runs (35), walks (20), and on base % (.470). Hughes is signed to play at Missouri Valley College next season.
Three Monarchs softball players, Bailey Guiles, Autumn Hughes, and Amy Spieler, recently signed Letter of Intents to continue their education and softball career after they finish at MCC-Maple Woods.