Arkansas High’s softball team had a bitter-sweet season in 2018. Head coach Elizabeth Tankersley has a lineup loaded with juniors and seniors, and expects improvement.
The Lady Backs move down to Class 5A this year, but the competition in conference is the same, minus a good Greenwood team.
“After finishing six in the regular season, we beat El Dorado, and was a third seed going to state last season,” said Tankersley. “I believe we’ll be fighting El Dorado and Lake Hamilton for the third and fourth seeds this year.”
Traditional powers Sheridan and Benton are once again favored to dominate the new 5A league. Tankersley understands why they’re so strong each year.
Sheridan once again team to beat
“Sheridan has been on top for a while (current 25-game winning streak in conference),” said Tankersley. “Sheridan has a lot of Division I kids. Their kids play a lot of travel ball. Our geography prevents a lot of our girls from playing travel ball.”
It should be noted the Lady Back came very close to upsetting Sheridan last year, 4-3.
Junior right-hander Kaitlyn Fortenberry is back to handle most of Arkansas High’s pitching. She earned postseason honors as a freshman and sophomore.
“This is my most talented group of girls since my first season six years ago,” said Tankersley. “We now know we can play with anybody. Getting back to the state tournament is very doable.
“We’ve created a great rivalry with El Dorado. We love it, it’s a great atmosphere when we play them. Sheridan and Benton are beatable, but you’ll have to play great softball to do it.”
The Lady Backs first game will be a benefit encounter with Hope at Arkansas High on Feb. 22.
Recent rain has prevented the Arkansas High girls from getting a lot of practice time on the field. Still, Tankersley has a good idea who will be in her starting lineup against Hope.
Junior Kaley Burns will be behind the plate, with Fortenberry in the circle. Senior Alyssa Smith will be at first; sophomore Kayla Dossey at second; senior Adison Wright at short; sophomore Jordan Stanley at third; junior Shelby Robinson in left; junior Sydnee Blackwell in center; and senior Ajahi Cheatham in right.
Stanley enjoyed an outstanding season at the plate as a freshman.