Chaffee falls into line this season

Sunday, August 22, 2004

On the heels of its first conference championship and after years of strong spring performances, Chaffee's softball team is making a bold move.

The Red Devils will hit the field this year for the first time in the fall. The move could bring a struggling sports program its first team state playoff berth since 2001.

"This is really big for them. And not just for them, but the whole school," Chaffee coach Debbie Lewis said.

In a school with an enrollment less than 200, Chaffee will now have three girls sports in the fall. Softball joins volleyball and tennis as fall offerings. Despite the added sport, numbers for all three seem to be on par.

"That was a really big concern for the town and the school," Lewis said.

The Red Devils' fall team brings back much of the spring squad that won 14 of 15 games. Chaffee started the spring season undefeated through 12 games. Included in those wins was a thrilling game against Delta, a likely district opponent this fall.

Chaffee's lineup will be young, dominated by juniors and sophomores. Top pitchers Courtney Walter and Whitney Horrell are both back, along with .500 hitters Kegan Orr, Sarah Dooley and Mendie Hendrix.

"I think we'll do all right," Dooley said. "We're a good team. We have a lot of good talent."

Playing in the fall will bring a schedule with new challenges. Gone are mercy-rule wins over a mostly small-school schedule. Chaffee's fall schedule includes two games against Sikeston and a matchup against fellow SEMO Conference opponent Notre Dame.

"Last year you could goof off and still beat a team by six or seven runs," sophomore infielder Rachel Hendrix said. "This year we'll still have fun, but you have to be more serious."

Chaffee's players also will experience some meaningful playoff games as well. Chaffee softball will play for its first district title this season, although its class and district have yet to be determined.

While an all new set of tests await Chaffee, the players are ready to prove they belong in the fall lineup.

"It's a challenge to show how good of a fall team we are," Dooley said.

Chaffee will open its season Thursday with a road contest against East Prairie. Chaffee's first home game will be Monday versus Twin Rivers.

"Our primary goal this year is to compete with the other teams," Lewis said.

Kelly, Central to defend district titles

Two local teams, Central and Kelly, go into this season as defending district champions. Central will hit the field on Monday at Perryville in its season opener, as the Tigers -- competing in Class 4 -- try to improve on their first quarterfinal appearance.

Kelly does not hit the field until Sept. 2, when the Hawks play Central. Kelly is also coming back from a Class 2 quarterfinal appearance.

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