The roller coaster ride of the previous three seasons has provided some perspective for the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets.
A large group of underclassmen saw the charge from last place to the top spot, only to regress back down to the cellar last year. Those returning will welcome several youngsters set to jump right in and help find the success the program had in the peak instead of the valleys.
“We’re definitely young. Five of the nine starters are either freshmen or sophomores,” Denison head coach Jeremy Green said. “There’s a lot of excitement. We have nine girls that can hit. We don’t have those automatic outs.”
Finding a way back into the playoffs starts as Denison opens its season at Denton at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
Last year Denison went 4-17-1 and 2-10 in the district standings. It came after finishing as the district champions and the Lady Yellow Jackets were unable to slug their way to a repeat crown and tumbled down into last place. They lost four games by two runs or less and six times they scored at least six runs and ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
“I made a lot of mistakes last year but I’m making sure we learn from them,” Green said about his first year in charge. “Changed the way we practiced. Changed our approach to everything. We’ve been putting our heads down and working hard and getting better every day. That’s been our mindset.”
The Lady Jackets have to replace a pair of first-team all-district selections — outfielder Yvette Moreno and infielder Kaylee Walters — as well as second-team all-district infielder Kayla Daugherty.
Moreno batted .417 with 11 RBI, 21 runs and 19 steals, Walters hit .406 with six doubles, five home runs, 13 RBI and 26 runs and Daugherty hit .438 with 15 RBI.
Leading the returners in the lineup are junior outfielder Elizabeth Linwood, a second-team all-district selection who batted .403 with three homers, 14 RBI, 14 steals and 20 runs and sophomore third baseman Madison Carter, who jumped into the order with a .379 average, seven doubles, 13 RBI and 15 runs last spring.
Jaci Garvin is back behind the plate after missing a large chunk of her sophomore season with an injury.
Senior Shayla Love is another starter returning to the lineup at first base, as is classmate Haley Earnhart in the outfield.
But the newcomers to the roster have led to some position changes.
In the outfield, Linwood is going from left to center and Earnhart from right to left. Junior Hannah Koch, who transferred from Davis (Okla.), takes over in right field.
Carter is sidelined at least for the next couple of weeks due to injury so freshman Jewel Hiberd will fill in there for the time being. She also has the potential to start at catcher depending on the alignment.
There will be another freshman on the left side with Hannah Grinspan taking over at shortstop.
Sophomore Presley Wilson rounds out the infield at second after serving in a utility role late last season.
Freshman Ashlinn Hamilton gets the nod in the circle. Senior Hailey Jaresh, who started last spring, and freshman Aslynn Fowler could also factor into some innings as the season progresses.
Jaresh and junior Keanu Hall are options at the middle infield positions while Love and Hall could see action in the outfield as well. Junior Jacque Matthews filled in last year at catcher when Garvin was hurt.
“Versatility is a great word to describe this group,” Green said. “I don’t have one starter who is only slotted at just one spot.”
In addition to competing in the Bonham, Fort Worth Brewer and McKinney tournaments, Denison has non-district games against Pottsboro, Denton Ryan, Paris and Bells before starting 10-5A play on March 19. The Lady Jackets will be in a district with Sherman, Princeton, McKinney North, Wylie East and Lovejoy.
“I think I did a good job that they won’t see anything in district that they won’t see before,” Green said. “I think it’s going to pay off. The more I watch them play and grow, I think we’re going to be in the hunt.”