With a plethora of talent returning to the fold, expectations are on the rise for New Caney under third-year head coach Anna Whiddon.
The Lady Eagles finished last spring with a 10-16 overall record, which included a 5-11 mark in District 20-5A. With more experience under their belts, the players will be aiming to get the program back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“Expectations would definitely be to make a playoff run and be competitive throughout district (play),” Whiddon said. “I’m most excited about finally having a little bit of maturity on our side. All of these kids, they’ve been playing varsity since they were freshmen basically, and now they’re all juniors and seniors, so that’s exciting.”
Continuity will be a key component for New Caney this season. Several of the players have been through the gauntlet before and know what it takes to compete successfully.
“We really only have two kids new to the varsity level this year, whereas in previous years we have had multiple every season,” Whiddon said. “I think this year, it’s kind of like all the pieces are starting to come together, and we’re hoping that it pays off.”
The Lady Eagles’ postseason hopes start with a formidable duo in the circle. Senior Bailee Weaver and junior Savannah Youngblood will be sharing time at pitcher.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in them, and they’re throwing really great right now,” Whiddon said. “This season has been a little different, and they’re learning to work together, to rely on each other a little more and know that they’ve got each other’s backs.”
New Caney also brings back some other key contributors. Junior Erin Plunkett is a returning all-state outfielder, and fellow junior Corigan Beaird led the team in RBIs last season. Junior Outfielder Kasen Morkish is a stalwart defensively and will bring speed to the basepaths.
“I think one of the big things about our offense this year is we definitely are very diverse,” Whiddon said. “We have a lot of team speed, and we’ve definitely got the power to back it up. We have kids that are putting up the RBI numbers that we need them to, so I think hopefully it will all come together and the speedsters are getting on base and doing their part as well.”
New Caney will once again be competing in District 20-5A, but the addition of Grand Oaks makes for an extended 18-game schedule. Whiddon says her team will be ready.
The Lady Eagles will be facing off against Grand Oaks, Caney Creek, Montgomery, Lake Creek, Willis, Huntsville, Tomball, Porter and Kingwood Park.
“The 18 district games are brutal,” Whiddon said. “It only allows us to have that one pre-district game, which is craziness. The competition, I think, is going to be more of the same. We have some powerhouses in our district, a lot of tough competition and a lot of tough pitching. I think it’s going to pan out very similar, and I think it’s going to be a dogfight until the end for those top four spots.”
New Caney opens the season at 6:30 p.m. Monday at home against Magnolia.