Mexico softball expects to hit ball hard, wants balance

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 8/20/22

Mexico softball will hit the ball hard this season and wants to limit the line drives on defense.

The Lady Bulldogs return much of an offense that scored 8.6 runs per game but look to improve its …

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Mexico softball expects to hit ball hard, wants balance


Mexico softball will hit the ball hard this season and wants to limit the line drives on defense.

The Lady Bulldogs return much of an offense that scored 8.6 runs per game but look to improve its 7.7 runs allowed per game a year ago. They finished 11-10 last season to extend their winning season streak to seven.

First-year head coach Curt Riley, making his return to coaching softball after 11 years, said his new club has impressed him with its hitting ability before playing the first game of the regular season. Mexico played some scrimmages during the summer, on top of the travel leagues various Lady Bulldogs played in, and competed in an intrasquad home run derby during the late evening on Aug. 12 at Gallop Field in Mexico.

“I was really, really happy with seeing the line drives that my kids were hitting (during the derby),” Riley said. “We have to get people on base.”

If the Lady Bulldogs do get people on base, which they can do by consistently putting the ball in play, Riley said the team should be competitive this season.

Mexico’s biggest weapon is returning all-state, all-North Central Missouri Conference and all-district senior third baseman Abby Bellamy. Riley remembers Bellamy hitting some balls out during the derby and is aware of her ability following her record-breaking season.

Bellamy is coming off a year when she set new school records in home runs, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases. She hit nine home runs, 15 doubles and 37 RBI for a .512 batting average, .556 on base percentage and 1.085 slugging percentage all while striking out only 10 times.

“Everybody knows Abby can hit bombs,” Riley said. “That’s just a given.”

Riley said there are several spots in the lineup he thinks will be productive this season, including a couple reigning all-conference and all-district players: junior centerfielder Jordyn Thurman and senior first baseman Kierstan Epperson.

“Kierstan hits the ball really, really well,” Riley said. “(Jo) gets on base and gets things going for us. She does a great job and she’s very vocal.”

Riley thinks the defense is “ahead of where” he expected and believes the infield will be solidified this season when junior Karlee Sefrit makes the move from catcher to shortstop. He said Sefrit played catcher last season because there was a hole that needed to be filled, but with freshman Hannah Loyd taking over behind the dish, Sefrit can play where she has in travel leagues.

The fact that Sefrit played catcher last season shows how selfless of a player she is and has displayed that same attitude along with a “hard-nosed” mentality this season, Riley said.

“She’s got the prettiest swing I’ve seen in softball,” Riley said. “Karlee is one of those kids that can play anywhere. When I talked to her about making the move, she says, ‘Coach, I just want to play.’ When a kid says that to you, you can put her anywhere and you’re not going to worry about it.”

Among Riley’s other key offensive players are senior Lexie Willer, junior Brooke Teel and sophomore Kenley Jones, he said, as the Lady Bulldogs will try to be aggressive in taking the extra base to pair with their power.

Riley said the pitching has been focused on in practice because of its importance every year and also how he wants the staff to work with the defense.

“The defense behind our pitching is going to be pretty good,” Riley said. “I want our pitchers to pitch to contact and have the girls make the plays behind them.”

Riley said Mexico will be able to go to three or four arms this season, including senior Eboni Mayfield and juniors Emma Cunningham and Shelby Shramek. Each of these girls had nice outings during the team’s summer scrimmages, Riley said, and Thurman pitched some innings last season and could do so again.

“Bringing Eboni back and how well Emma has improved, we really think our pitching will be OK to where we can get some stops defensively,” Riley said.

Mexico plays in a jamboree today in Marceline before starting its season in the Sullivan Back to School Tournament on Aug. 26-27.

“I look at it like I did in basketball. We’ve got to get one percent better every day,” Riley said. “Your pitching’s got to hold up, and you’ve got to be able to hit the ball and put it in play. We’ve got to be ready to aggressive at the plate.”


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