Liberty-Eylau softball team returns eight starters from 22-8 squad

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Second-year coach Kendra Cullum has eight starters, including her pitcher in hopes of improving on last year's 22-8 record at Liberty-Eylau.


Liberty-Eylau’s softball team could improve on its 22-8 record in 2018 and still not win District 15-4A.

Second-year head coach Kendra Cullum has a unique program going with her father, Rick Cullum, serving as the club’s pitching coach. Kaylee Dalby gives the Lady Leopards a third experienced coach.

Despite having eight returning starters, including senior pitcher Isabella Gunderson, L-E will have trouble unseating North Lamar as district champions. L-E won a bi-district playoff series in 2018 with Canton, losing an area round series to Bullard.

“North Lamar did graduate its pitcher, but I also know they had another good one behind her,” L-E’s young coach said. “We’re really excited about how hard the girls are working. It is going to be a tough road. Paris has a Division I pitcher, and we always have great games with Pleasant Grove.”

It’s also going to be special when the Leopards play Pittsburg. Former Liberty-Eylau all-stater Lacey Middlebrooks is the Lady Pirates new head coach. Middlebrooks pitched L-E to the 3A state championship game in 2008, losing the title game, 1-0.

The Leopards are starting the season without three of the team’s best players, who are currently on L-E’s playoff-bound basketball team. Twins Keeley and Kayla Norris were two of the best outfielders in district last season, and Cullum is eager to get them on the softball field.

Senior Isabella Gunderson is expected to handle most of Liberty-Eylau’s pitching chores in 2019.

Lady Leopards have depth in the circle

Gunderson won’t be the only girl pitching for the Leopards this season. Sophomore Shelby Ryther should get her share of work.

“Ryther pitched a little last year at the junior varsity level,” said Kendra Cullum. “My pitching coach has really been doing a good job with her. I think she’ll be a surprise this year. She’s already surprised us. We’ve also got a freshman we can bring up to pitch if needed.

“The one thing we bring to the table this season is experience. Our game hasn’t changed. We’re hoping our speed will play a big role. We want to be sound, and very good defensively in the outfield. I think we were known last year for our defense, and hopefully that will continue. Our girls make a lot of big plays that other teams can’t make.”

The long list of senior returners includes Mariah Coleman, Savannah Phelps, Tyrah Venable, and the Norris sisters. Others expected to contribute on the varsity are Alyssa Littles, McKenzye Williamson, Laila Pegue, Tamara Norris and Kaclyn Nelson.

The Leopards scrimmage at Queen City Friday.

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