Head Coach Rob Tharp enters sixth season
After finishing in the final four of the 12th Region tournament last season, the Mercer County Lady Titans softball team is primed and ready to make another run at the 12th Region title.
With only one senior and three juniors, the Lady Titans will have a ton of contributions from their underclassmen.
Emily Rawlings returns as the only senior in 2019.
“We look to get ample contributions from Emily (Rawlings) this year without putting too much pressure on her as the lone senior. She will provide us with some leadership and help us win games,” said Head Coach Rob Tharp. “Emily withstood a lot of obstacles to stand where she is now. She has shown resiliency throughout the years and is ready to perform. Being the only senior sometimes can be overwhelming, but with the help of the junior class, she will be just fine.”
Mercer County’s three juniors will all have a big role this season.
Kynleigh Miller, Leia Freeman and Abby Rogers all played big roles in the Lady Titans’ success in 2018, and Tharp expects big things out of his junior group this season.
“I expect a lot out of those three. These girls have been around me for quite some time now and I don’t cut them much slack,” said Tharp. “They understand their roles and are ready to go. These three lead by example, performance and talking to their teammates, which is great. They will be the leaders of this team along with Emily.”
Listed below is the full roster for Mercer County softball.
Seniors: Emily Rawlings
Juniors: Leia Freeman, Kynleigh Miller and Abby Rogers.
Sophomores: Stevie Shepherd, Brooklin Burgess, Kylie Devine, Grace Pittman and Ry’Ann Tharp.
Freshmen: Elle Prewitt.
8th Grade: Kallise Gammon and Kayleigh White.
Tharp plans to use three pitchers this season. Miller, White and Prewitt will all get time in the circle.
“Along with Kayleigh (White) and Kynleigh (Miller), we plan to utilize Elle (Prewitt) as well,” said Tharp.
Miller missed most of last season due to a hand injury and is looking to bounce back with a strong 2019 campaign in the circle and on the field.
All three pitchers have improved immensely since last season.
“All three of these ladies continue to improve. They are continually working on their craft and getting better. Kynleigh continues to spin the ball well and has really good movement,” said Tharp. “Kayleigh seems to have picked up more velocity on the fastball and has developed some breaking pitches as well. Elle has complete command of the changeup and is spinning the ball well too.”
All three pitchers bring something different to the mound.
“These three ladies are different from each other, giving us a variety of styles to place in the circle,” said Tharp.
White pitched over 165 innings in 2018 with 95 strikeouts. Prewitt pitched six innings with three strikeouts and Miller pitched 22.2 innings with 15 strikeouts before her injury.
Tharp said his team will have a ton of flexibility in certain spots.
Pittman and Rogers will be behind the plate this season. At the plate, Pittman batted .350 last season with 11 hits, while Rogers batted .289 with 11 hits. Both were tied with nine RBI.
Rawlings, Freeman, Burgess and Gammon will round out the infield depending on who is in the circle. Rawlings had six hits and six RBI last season. Gammon will get first piece of varsity experience, after mainly being a runner last season, scoring three runs.
“We will utilize her (Gammon) speed and athleticism where the team needs it,” said Tharp.
Freeman was one of the top hitters in 2018, batting .434 with 33 hits, three home runs and 18 RBI. Burgess was the top power hitter for Mercer County in 2018, slugging a team-high seven home runs, while batting .280 with 30 RBI.
The same thing can be said about the outfield positions just like in the infield. Tharp has the luxury of putting different players in different positions due to the versatility his team has.
Shepherd, Tharp, Gammon will be the primary outfielders depending on who is pitching.
“Those three will be out there a lot taking away those would-be hits,” said Tharp.
Devine, who is currently battling injury, hopes to be back soon.
“She will aid us on the field, with her bat and on the bases when she is healthy and available,” said Tharp.
Shepherd batted .295 last season with 23 hits and 19 RBI, Tharp batted .330 with four home runs and 29 RBI, and Devine batted .273 with 13 runs scored and four RBI.
Both Shepherd and Tharp are expected to largely produce this season after having strong years last season.
The Lady Titans are playing in eight showcases/tournaments this season: Lady Titan Triangle (home), Lady Titan Classic (Home), Uncle Pete Knoll Classic (Bishop Brossart), Tri-State Showcase (Boyd Co.), Capital City Showcase (Franklin County), Five-Star General Tournament (Lafayette), Somerset/Pulaski (various sites) and the Lady Bruins Triangle (Central Hardin).
“The weather plays a big factor in playing games as we all know. Some of the thought behind playing in tournaments was getting us in the right places to see the right teams,” said Tharp. “When Mother Nature causes you to cancel three games during the week, maybe…just maybe you can get three games in on Friday and Saturday instead. We are fairly young and need to play as many games as we can to reach our full potential.”
Tharp talked about the tournaments his team will play in.
“The Tri-State Showcase in Ashland and the Pete Knoll Classic will be key for seeing competition. We will see three good teams in Ashland and while in northern Kentucky, we will get a glimpse of the 9th and 10th Region teams that may be around for semi-state at the end of the year,” said Tharp. “We are also scheduled to play 11th Region teams as well as the 6th and 7th Region. Combined, we hope that this tests the team to getting better and prepares them for the postseason.”
Tharp’s staff returns assistant coaches Eric Miller and Cliff Prewitt. Former Lady Titan softball star, Tabby Shewmaker, is a new member of the staff.
“Tabby (Shewmaker) being a Mercer alum and former player with a lot of college experience is a really good fit for this young group of kids here at Mercer,” said Tharp. “She has played a vital role this winter in conditioning, getting players physically fit and ready.”
Mercer County’s home opener will be this Friday, March 22, when they host Franklin County at 6:15 p.m.