NEW MARTINSVILLE - Mark Batton had Magnolia on the verge of the state tournament last season, falling one game shy in a West Virginia Class AA regional final to Ritchie County. If the Blue Eagles are to at least reach that point again, albeit in Class A, they'll need to find replacements for a stellar senior class that included Tori Tharp, Marissa Bosley, Dallas Mullett, Jordan Babe, Emily Blake, Makenzie Dawson, Maghan Miller, Cassadi Wells, Gauri Patel and Kayla Robinson.
''Our success will depend on how quickly our young players can catch up to the speed of the game,'' Batton said. ''They work hard in practice every day and practice with a lot of enthusiasm.''
A good place to start for a team coming off a 28-4 season, is junior first baseman-pitcher Mallory Chapman, who will likely fill the void left by Tharp, one of the best to ever put on a Magnolia uniform. A season ago Chapman was 10-1, striking out 95 and walking 14 in 60 innings. She additionally batted .444 with three home runs, 14 doubles and 37 RBI.
''Mallory is one of the hardest-working players I have ever been associated with,'' said Batton, who enters his seventh season with a 120-43 record. ''She is a seven-day-a-week athlete that is constantly challenging herself and working to improve.
''We will be depending on her experience and leadership abilities to guide this team.''
Sophomore pitcher-infielder Abby Durig is the second and final returning starter. She registered a .329 average (23 hits in 70 at-bats), seven doubles and 17 RBI.
Kennedy Slampak is the lone returning senior and plays in the outfield. Juniors are Erinn Clegg (OF-P), Stephenie Mullett (outfield), Ashley Moore (infield) and Jordan Grimm (infield).
Batton will count on a group of sophomores that includes Audrey Gibb (catcher), Katie Blatt (infield), Kasey Hilpert (infield) and Allison Ritz (outfield).
Newcomers are senior outfielder Kakyn Cecil, sophomore outfielder Angela Sizemore, freshman catcher-infielder Davianne Croasmun and freshman outfielder Carissa Durant.
''We are looking forward to the start of the season and the start of a very challenging schedule,'' Batton said.