PreSeason Pre view.
Three years after playing in the state championship game Ennis softball is about to field a new look lineup with only four players returning from last year’s 20-win team.
Behind NCAA Division I recruits like Julia Hollingsworth and Michaela Cochran, the state-ranked Lady Lions went 26-6 the year after producing 35 wins in 2014. While Hollingsworth started as a freshman at Tulsa, Cochran will compete for the same this spring at Texas Tech. Also gone are the three head coaches who were at the controls; Rodney McNeil (2014), Magen Butler (2015) and Kendal Newton last year.
The new sheriff in town is Glenn Banker, a veteran with a firm hand. Forgive him if his genial personality takes a back seat to his driven nature. Fundamentals and team-play should see renewed focus, according to team insiders. Banker, who knows a thing or two about maximizing talent, says he aims “to improve the number of quality at bats by each player,” a tactic that should prove effective in specific situations. “Getting our batters to see more pitches is just part of it,” he said. Coaxing more pitches will also help tire opposing hurlers.
Graduation and attrition took all but five on last year’s roster, with the four who are back forming the nucleus of what should be a team that contends for the District 17-5A title.
Kinsey Skroh, a three year starter at catcher, Maile Deutsch, who was at second base a year ago, two-year starting pitcher Monica Monreal, and Samantha Martinez, who has been a mainstay on the hot corner for two seasons, are incumbents. The new skipper says the strength of the Lady Lions will come from the leadership and example of those seniors catalysts.
Banker currently has 56 student-athletes in the softball program, though he plans to keep tabs on junior high softball as well as the girls who play at Bluebonnet Park for the City.
Practices and scrimmages begin
The official beginning of practices is approximately Jan. 21. About three weeks later the Lady Lions host Athens on Feb. 7 as well as Lovejoy and Midlothian for scrimmages on Feb. 10. They travel to Lucas for another scrimmage with Lovejoy on Feb. 11. The Leopards were 20-12-1 last season. "We haven’t started after school practices,” Banker said, “though, what I’ve seen, I’ve liked it.” One spot in the lineup, leadoff, is wide open. Hollingsworth and Cochran manned the No. 1 position in the batting order, and Banker is seeking a replacement. He has a good idea who may fill No. 3 through No. 7, though he admitted No. 1-2 and 8 through-9 are obtainable. Shortstop is open, with Skroh’s agility and arm could give her the lead heading into camp. Martinez may move from third to catcher, a position she has played before. Look for Deutsch at first, with incoming freshmen Ryan Nutt contending at third. Monica Monreal, the Pitcher of the Year, returns healthy. As a freshman two years ago she earned District Pitcher of the Year while also swinging a robust bat. Should she rebound this season, the Lady Lions should compete for the district crown.
A complete preview of the team and the season will be published late in late January.
Ennis will participate in three tournaments, playing at least 15 games, before opening a 10-game league season on March 21. Lindale, 19-11 in 2016, figures to be the team to beat, though Corsicana (12-7-3) is expected to be a formidable foe.