Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Badgers lost eight seniors to graduation, one returning starter out for season due to knee injury
After losing eight seniors to graduation and a returning starter to a devastating knee injury, the defending Grand Canyon region champion Prescott softball team may struggle to qualify for a third straight state playoff this spring.
Team captains Ashlynn Uvila, Kendall Schwartz and Delaney Marshall led the Badgers to a 16-6 overall record a year ago, finishing 10-2 in region play before losing 7-4 to No. 8-seeded Greenway in the first round of the state tournament.
All three players graduated last May, while Jordyn Crockett, Taliea Bice and Evelyn Morales have also played their last game in a Prescott uniform.
Add into the mix the loss of returning senior center fielder Audrey Lockling, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear during soccer, and the Badgers are looking to plug more than just a few leaks.
Junior Francesca Larson and sophomore Izzy Chacon are the only returning Badger players for the 2018 season.
Larson, a left-handed pitcher who will likely be the No. 1 starter for third-year head coach Randall Bryan this spring, said she’s looking forward to becoming a “leader.”
“It’s really cool being a leader, everyone looks up to you,” she said, adding later, “It’s a little nerve racking, too.”
At the plate, she was third on the team with a .397 average and was tied for first with 26 runs scored in 2017.
Larson said despite the Badgers having a “new team,” they have an “awesome work ethic.”
“We work hard, push ourselves at practice. We can make it pretty far,” Larson said.
Bryan added that Larson is quickly adjusting to her new role.
“Fran is a really good leader, she’s a well-liked young lady. She gets along with all the girls, regardless of what grade they are,” Bryan said.
As for Chacon, the sophomore is expected to step into a starting role in center field this season, and hit .364 with five doubles, a triple and eight RBIs a year ago.
Prescott will start at least seven newcomers this season, including seniors Hannah Hasvold and Sarah Satathite. Hasvold is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in left field, while Satathite will do the same at second base. Junior catcher Rebekah Norris and first baseman McKynzie Hyslip have made the squad as well.
Hyslip said there’s a lot of “pressure” to perform this season. “It’s a brand new team, only one or two returners. We have to connect with a new team. We’ll get there,” Hyslip said.
The junior should see a lot of time at first base and in the circle when Larson isn’t pitching this season. She features a good curve and drop ball, but her best pitch is the changeup.
“My favorite pitch is the changeup. I like to focus on movement at the plate, getting into a batters head,” Hyslip said.
Despite the amount of turnover this season after back-to-back state playoff appearances in 2016 and 2017, Bryan said he’s very familiar to the group he has based on watching them all play junior varsity last season.
“I know they are ready to step up,” Bryan said. “This team, it’s a very cohesive unit, they’ve taken to each other, all of them.”
Bryan added that this season is a different dynamic than his first two years on the job.
“There was a lot of time and effort that we spent getting the girls (in the past) to understand the significance of a team. These girls (this year), that situation is easier,” Bryan said.
The Badgers (0-0, 0-0 Grand Canyon) open the 2018 season Friday against Blue Ridge at the Kickoff Classic Softball Tournament hosted by Agua Fria. First pitch is scheduled for 8 a.m.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.