The Belton Lady Tigers Softball team split the District 8-6A championship with Waco Midway last season, with 13-1 records in district play.
They had their playoff run cut short in the area round by Wylie, a team that played tightly
With that motivation, the Lady Tigers are back on the attack and hungry for a long playoff run.
Belton Softball seeks a return to the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season and will start their 25th anniversary schedule on Thursday, as the Lady Tigers play in the 2018 Bryan-College Tournament.
Belton will take on Corpus Christi Moody at 1 p.m. at the Bryan Regional Athletic Complex (BRAC) Glacier Field.
Should Belton win, they will take on the winner of Plano East (6A Regional Semifinalist in 2017) and Brazoswood (Bi-District Finalist in 2017) at 5 p.m.
If Belton should lose, they would take on the loser at 7 p.m., both games being at Glacier Field. Friday and Saturday games will depend on Thursday’s outcomes and could be played at one of several sites in the Bryan-College Station area.
A year ago, the Lady Tigers hit .415 as a team, with 368 runs scored and possessed an on-base percentage of .492.
Belton has an exciting corps of talent returning in 2018. Bethany Edwards is a three-year starting backstopper for the Lady Tigers and is the team’s active leader in games played (96), plate appearances (340), at bats (290), runs (115), hits (135), doubles (40), home runs (20), runs batted in (122), walks (33), assists (57), putouts (688), runners caught stealing (16) and pickoffs (7). The Lamar-commit is on the verge of setting the career record in most of these categories by the end of the 2018 season.
Avery Drake has electrified the team with her speed, slap hitting and defensively capabilities. She possesses not only the active team lead in career steals (86 on 89 attempts), she reset her own single season stolen base mark again in 2017. She is a hard out at the top of lineup, difficult to catch on the base paths and slides smartly into bases. The Houston Baptist-verbal commit has transitioned positions for the second consecutive season, going from second base in 2016 to centerfield in 2017 to shortstop in 2018. She replaces four-year starter Meredith Lusby, who graduated in 2017.
Caleigh Robinson has been a solid contributor at first base, not only with her glove, but with her bat as well. A two-year starter, Robinson hit .495 with seven home runs, 46 runs batted in, 22 walks, was hit by nine pitches and led the team with a .621 on-base percentage in 2017. Her 2017 bi-district playoff series performance against Irving MacArthur cemented her legacy in Belton playoff history, with a walk-off grand slam to cap a two-homer, 12-RBI performance in a two-game sweep of the Lady Cardinals.
Mackenzie Bartlett committed to play for Temple College and Coach Kristen Zaleski on February 7. Bartlett is moving from second base to centerfield, with the move of Drake to shortstop. Powerful at the plate and possessing a deceptively quick first step on the basepaths, Bartlett hit .372 with three long home runs and 20 runs batted in 2017. She had eight stolen bases last season and her speed will be utilized in the outfield.
With Mackenzie’s move to centerfield, UMHB-commit Madison Ward moves from left field to second base. Ward hit .408 with one home run and 22 runs batted in last season. She also hit .452 (19-of-42) with runners in scoring position. Ward saw good pitches to hit with Edwards and Robinson hitting immediately in front of her in the batting order.
Madison Bartlett returns for her second season at third base. The sophomore hit .387 with one home run, 24 runs batted in and let the team in sacrifices with 10. She also hit .405 (17-of-42) with runners in scoring position. She saw a great deal of action at the hot corner, registering a .929 fielding percentage in 79 chances in one of the most difficult positions to play in softball.
Miranda Davila was one of the Lady Tigers last season that made the most of her opportunity to play in the designated player position. She hit .490, scored 21 runs on 25 hits, had seven runs batted in and had one of the team’s best on-base percentages (.574). She was second on the team in stolen bases (13) and hit .522 (12-of-23) with runners in scoring position.
Madison Sniggs is a key reserve returning for the Lady Tigers in 2017. She hit .292, with eight runs scored, seven runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .346. She was 5-of-14 (.357) with runners in scoring position last season.
In the circle a year ago, Belton was forced to find a replacement for All-American Sidney Holman. Three young arms stepped up and did exceptional.
Madison Cotton and Taylor Tubbs split the majority of the workload, while Hannah Kelley picked up innings in relief. The pitching staff went 27-8, with three saves and a 1.70 earned run average. As a staff, they struck out 172 batters, walked 55 and hit only seven batters in 195 2/3 innings of work, with opponents hitting .206 against them.
Cotton, a Houston Baptist verbal commit, went 18-8 with a 2.06 earned run average. She struck out 89 batters and walked 36 in 88 innings. The opposition hit .201 against here, while registering just a .291 on-base percentage.
Tubbs, a Texas Wesleyan verbal commit, went 7-0 with a save and had a 1.41 earned run average. She fanned 66 batters and walked just 14 in 84 innings of work. Opponents hit .207 against her and registered a staff-low .248 in opposition on-base percentage.
Kelley registered two saves in 2017, going 2-0 in 11 games. She struck out 17 and walked five in 23 2/3 innings.
The staff had five errors on 56 chances last season. Several of those errors were early in the season with wet field conditions.
The battles in the field will be in left field and right field, and at designated player. There is offense aplenty on the varsity squad. El Paso Chapin transfer/Embry-Riddle verbal commit Alina Holguin, late-season call-up/Texas A&M-Texarkana verbal commit Payton Cook, UMHB-commit Izzy Gutierrez, sophomore Maddison Parker, and freshman Paige Nunes are all candidates for any of the three positions. Nunes is being looked at as relief for Edwards at times behind the plate. The Lady Tigers will also watch the progress of freshmen pitchers Harley Staton and Mckayla Seeliger, as both players develop their pitching on junior varsity. Staton has also gained some hitting varsity experience via the Vista Ridge scrimmage last Saturday in Cedar Park.