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Alma, Van Buren await start of 'new' softball season

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Both Van Buren and Alma were just a couple of games into their season when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring season.

Coaches Andy Williams (Van Buren) and Charla Parrish (Alma) said their teams are excited to get back out and play this year.

"This will be an interesting season for us," Williams said. "We basically have a new team, a new conference, and a new group of opponents, and a new way of playing. This season will truly be a work in progress. We're hoping as a team gains experience, it gets better and better."

5A West teams will have doubleheaders instead of meeting on different dates as games were played traditionally in previous seasons.

"This is going to be an unusual season because of COVID. We have been working with our players to play lots of positions because you will never know," Parrish said. "Our conference is going to be a tough one, but we're excited that we're going to have a season."

Van Buren and Mountain Home join the 5A West with perennial powerhouses Greenbrier, Greenwood and Vilonia, along with state playoff contenders Alma and Siloam Springs. 

"I always thought the 6A West was a tough conference to compete in with some of the best softball-playing schools year in and year out," Williams said. "However, moving 'down' to the 5A West didn't help us at all. We'll be facing three of the strongest teams at any level in the state of Arkansas."

Players To Watch

Van Buren

Maddie Mills, JR, second base: After starting for two years at shortstop, Mills moves to second. Williams: "Her experience and will help her have a great 2021."

Ashlynn Kinsey, SR, first base: Kinsey, who played basketball for Van Buren, decided to focus on softball her senior year. She is one of two seniors on the team and the only three-year starter. Williams: "The improvement she's made during the offseason has been amazing to watch."

Alexis Gibson, SR, centerfield: Gibson has been the go-to runner for the Lady Pointers since she was a freshman. Williams: "Alexis is hoping to parlay her experience as a courtesy runner into a contributing starter her senior year."

Alma

Kelsey Shepherd, SR, catcher: Parrish is a four-year starter for Alma. Parrish: "Kelsey is a very dedicated player that has developed into a great person and softball player. Kelsey could play every position but pitcher. She's always someone you can count on."

Bailey Webb, SR, right fielder: Webb returns to the Lady Airedale lineup as a three-year starter. Parrish: "Bailey has gotten better every year. She is also a leader on our team and someone that is going to step up for our team this year."

Makenzie Martin, JR, pitcher: Martin is back for her second season to start as a pitcher. Parrish: "She has worked very hard in the offseason to get in better shape and sharpen both her pitching and hitting skills."