Lady Pirates place several players on all-district, all-conference team
The Boonville Lady Pirates softball team would like to have a do over when it comes to the Tri-County Conference.
Although the losses to Blair Oaks and California were legitimate, the Lady Pirates could have easily been on the winning side against Hallsville, Osage and Eldon, which were all losses by two runs or less.
As it turned out, Boonville wound up finishing 2-5 in the TCC.
Blair Oaks and Hallsville eventually finished in a two-way tie for first at 6-1 and 5-1, respectively. California, meanwhile, placed third at 5-2, followed by Versailles and Southern Boone each at 3-4, Boonville sixth at 2-5, Osage at 2-4 and Eldon at 1-6.
Of course the Lady Pirates proved when healthy what they could accomplish by finishing second in the district tournament with upset wins against No. 4 Fulton and top-seeded Hallsville.
That alone allowed Boonville to closeout the season at 12-12 overall.
Boonville softball coach Christie Zoeller said she had high hopes for this season. “I was hoping that we would be better,” Zoeller said. “I also wished we could have finished a little higher in conference because I definitely think we had the talent and potential to do so. Our conference really is a pretty solid conference all the way around. There is a lot of good players.”
So much so that Blair Oaks, Hallsville and California-the top three teams in the conference-had seven of the nine players selected on the first team.
Boonville, meanwhile, had two all-conference selections with sophomore pitcher Abby Pulliam named to the second team and junior Emma West selected to the honorable mention team.
Of course the late surge by the Lady Pirates in the district tournament was a lot better than the seven game skid over the final two weeks of the regular season.
While limping into the district tournament, losing seven of its last eight games, Boonville was still able to pull off two upsets against Fulton and Hallsville to reach the district championship.
Zoeller said she was upset when Boonville received the fifth seed because they had beaten both Fulton and Mexico, who got the higher seeds.
“I just feel like it all worked out the way it was supposed to,” Zoeller said. “I’m also happy with the times that we played in the district tournament. We played at 4 p.m. in the first game and the next night we played the early game. I think little things like that you really have to take into account. But to come out of districts the way that we did I couldn’t be happier. Obviously, it would have been great to win the whole thing but to come out with a second place finish there I was really happy for my seniors-who had never experienced winning a district game in their careers until then.”
By finishing second in the district, the Lady Pirates tied Centralia and Hallsville for the most selections on the all-district team with seven.
Pulliam and West again led Boonville in the all-district selections by being named to the first team. Pulliam was a first team pick at pitcher while West was selected for her play at third base.
Heading the second team for Boonville were Alexis Trigg, Daylynn Baker, Rachel Massa, Kourtney Kendrick and Brooke Eichelberger.
Pulliam, a two-year starter in the circle for Boonville, closed out the season at 12-4 overall with an ERA of 3.16. While logging 112 2/3 innings for the Lady Pirates, Pulliam struck out 85 batters and gave up 78 runs-51 earned-on 105 hits while walking only 39 batters. At the plate, Pulliam hit .286 for the season with 14 hits in 49 at bats with 10 singles, three doubles, one home run and eight RBIs.
Zoeller said she saw a lot of maturity in Pulliam from her freshman season to this season.
“I just saw some maturity in her understanding where that pitch location needs to be,” Zoeller said. “She stayed mentally tough throughout the season, even when she was quarantined. I think when she came back she was determined not to lose a step and I think she worked really hard through that, and then to get us through districts the way that she did by pitching all three games, I think speaks volumes about her.
“That championship game I don’t know if she was 100 percent, but she wasn’t going to let anybody know if she was hurting or any of those things. That’s the thing about her, she is going to go out and give you 100 percent all the time. She is just a great team leader for us and I’m glad she is in the circle because you can have great pitchers, but you’ve got to have somebody with that drive to really kind of lead you in that spot.”
West also held her own while playing third base this season. While finishing the season with a .298 average, West also had a team-leading 25 hits, 10 doubles and 23 RBIs for the Lady Pirates. She also had two home runs on the season.
West was also the No. 2 pitcher this season for Boonville.
Zoeller said West did really well at third for not having played that position before.
“Emma is just strong and has the potential to hit the ball with a ton of power,” Zoeller said. “She stepped up big for us in districts by getting key hits when we had runners in scoring position. She was definitely a huge part of our success in districts. I think Emma is one of those that she is going to do whatever you ask her to do. She was DP, pitcher and third baseman for us this season. She is going to go out and do the job that her team needs her to do and that says a lot about her.”
It also says a lot about the play of senior catcher Alexis Trigg, who has maintained that position for the last two years.
Trigg also improved twofold at the plate for Boonville while finishing with a .292 average with 19 hits in 65 at-bats with17 singles and 13 RBIs.
Zoeller said Trigg was a little rough around the edges starting out but probably improved the most as a player on the team as a whole. “Alexis was just one of those that was a fighter, go-getter and hustled all the time,” Zoeller said. “She struggled with hitting through high school and then her senior year kind of put it together a little bit and got some big hits throughout the year.”
Senior Brooke Eichelberger also had several key hits when it mattered, especially in the district tournament.
While starting the last two years at first base, Eichelberger finished the season hitting .228 with 18 hits in 79 at-bats with 14 singles, two doubles, one triple, one home run and 10 RBIs.
Zoeller said Eichelberger was just a consistent player. “Brooke played first base and dabbled a little bit at some other positions,” Zoeller said. “You knew that Brooke was going to go out and do whatever you ask her to do,” Zoeller said. “Brooke is just a kid that likes to come out, play the sport, be with her teammates and just have fun. She also had some really big hits in districts and stepped up for us.”
Zoeller also had two words to describe the play of junior second baseman Rachel Massa: spark plug.
Of course Massa was more than just a sparkplug for the Lady Pirates, she also became one of the best hitters on the team through hard work to lead the team with a .378 average. She also finished first on the team with 25 singles and closed out the season with two doubles, one triple, nine RBIs and 15 runs scored.
Zoeller said Massa is always going to give it her all all the time. “I think the big thing for me with Rachel is she kind of struggled hitting at the beginning of the season and worked really hard on it by staying after practice,” Zoeller said. “She was our most consistent hitter at that point of just getting a base hit, which allowed me to move Kourtney (Kendrick) back down to that 5 hole, where you want a big hit to come up, so Rachel just did a good job of getting herself on base and then being a strong defensive player for us at second base.”
Zoeller also saw something in senior Kourtney Kendrick at shortstop from the first time she stepped on the field as a sophomore.
Kendrick finished the season hitting .301 with 25 hits-which tied with Emma West-in 83 at-bats with 19 singles, four doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs.
Zoeller said Kendrick was a great senior leader. “She has the respect from her teammates as a leader of this team and she does it in a way that is suttle,” Zoeller said. “Kourtney is not a true shortstop, she is probably more of a first baseman, but she stepped into that spot as a sophomore when we were struggling to fill that spot and she’s improved every year there. It may not always be the prettiest play, but she makes the plays that we need her to make.”
Zoeller will also have to find a new starting center fielder next year to replace Daylynn Baker. While finishing the season with a .268 average, Baker also had 22 hits in 82 at bats with a team-leading two triples. She also finished the season with 11 singles, five doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs.
Zoeller said when she thinks about the best hitters on the team, Baker is right up there in the mix.
“Daylynn is quick and very fast and I think when she concentrates on what she is doing, she’s one of the best players on the team,” Zoeller said. “Daylynn came up with some huge plays in the outfield for us that again if she doesn’t make those catches, than 1 or 2 runs score in close ballgames that we had, and that’s the difference right there. I think the other coaches in the district recognized that as well just her speed in the outfield and her ability to track down balls. She also hit the ball hard and got some big hits for us in districts, and so that was inevitably the reason why we were able to have the success that we did.”