Claremore softball has a new look in 2019.
After graduating seven seniors from last year’s 16-17 squad, the Lady Zebras are looking to fill several crucial roles in both the batting lineup and on defense.
“We’ve worked over the summer to try to fill those spots,” Claremore coach Keeli Garroutte said. “We look a lot different than we have in the past. I think we’ll be able to run a little better than we have in the past.”
One underclassman switching roles to fill a void is sophomore Maddox Thomas.
Thomas is making the move from third base to catcher this season, taking over for Alexis Williams, who now plays for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“I think she’ll do a good job back there,” Garroutte said.
It also helps that Thomas had the second-highest batting average last year.
Jadyn Muns is another returner who finds herself in a new position this fall.
After a successful year at second base, Muns is taking her talents to the shortstop position that was left vacant by Holland Rader.
Like Maddox, she plays an important role in the lineup as well.
“She was our third-highest batting average, so two big pieces of our lineup are returning, which is good,” Garroutte said.
Elsewhere, Rylee Vanaman brings four years of varsity experience back to the outfield, and Terran Schornick is set to reprise her role as the starting centerfielder.
The remaining roster is comprised of young bloods looking to make an impact on the new-look squad.
However, don’t be surprised if that younger talent leaves favorable impressions during the early stages of the season.
Some of them already have.
Garroutte said the inexperienced varsity hopefuls have been getting after it during the summer, giving impeccable effort despite the scorching heat.
Although her squad lacks a varsity background, the four-year head coach said she believes the Lady Zebras will be more versatile offensively because of the speed and quickness entering the lineup.
Claremore will be able to do certain things it couldn’t last season, but the team must first come together to form a cohesive unit.
“It’s not that the people in those positions are inexperienced softball players; they are just inexperienced as a whole together,” Garroutte said. “We haven’t played together a lot, so it’s been really important to get our scrimmages in so we can make sure we’re where we need to be and talking the way we need to talk.”
The Lady Zebras have the opportunity to do just that during the Claremore Scrimmage Festival today.
Claremore hosts Adair at 9 a.m. and Bartlesville at 1 p.m. in a pair of exhibition matches, allowing teams to work out the kinks and make necessary changes without worrying about wins and losses or district standings.
“We won’t turn the scoreboard on, but it’s timed,” Garroutte said. “We’ll play an hour and 15 minutes and finish the inning. Adair and Bartlesville are two teams we haven’t seen over the summer, and I’m excited to see both of them.
“Exposing our hitters to as many pitchers as we can is my main goal.”
Three of Claremore’s six district losses in 2018 were decided by three runs or less, which unfortunately sunk the team to fifth in District 5A-3. As a result, the Lady Zebras were stuck in a regional with district rival Pryor, which swept the season series between the teams.
Claremore is in a different district this season, and though Pryor remains, Garroutte said she hopes the addition of Collinsville, Bishop Kelley and Nathan Hale provides her team an opportunity at a better regional.
“There were times we thought we were going to finish second or third last year, but we ended up fifth,” Garroutte said. “We were in the mix with that middle group of teams, but we didn’t play as well as we needed to when we needed to.
“We’re not far away from setting ourselves up with our district play and getting a good regional.”