Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High senior Rachel Ritchie scored 29 runs and drove in 29 runs last season.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High senior Rachel Ritchie scored 29 runs and drove in 29 runs last season.

The Macon County High softball program returns a wealth of experience as the Tigerettes hope to improve on last season's 22-13 campaign.

Macon County placed fourth in District 8-AA during the regular season and third in the 8-AA Tournament.

"We lost four games or five (district) games last year by one run," Tigerette third-year head coach John Conditt said. "That would have changed the complexity of the district standings."

Macon County reached one of the eight Class AA sectional contests in 2017, falling one win short of the state tournament.

"I think we can go to the state this year if we play well," Conditt said. "We feel like we can win 30 games this year. We won 22 last year. Abby (Shoulders) was hurt last year. (Morgan) Carter was hurt last year. It was tough last year.

"This year, it's a fun group to coach."

Carter is a three-year starter at catcher, having been a Tennessee Softball Coaches Association (TSCA) Miss Softball honoree in Class AA last season, a TSCA All-State selection, the District 8-AA Softball Co-Most Valuable Player and a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA) All-State Softball Team in AA.

The District 8-AA Co-Most Valuable Player clubbed 11 home runs. Carter had a .551 batting average, a .630 on-base percentage, doubled six times, tripled once, scored 26 runs and drove in 44 runs.

She did not strike out last season and drew 20 base on balls.

"She's a beast," Conditt said. "She's the hardest-hitting kid I've ever coached. She has tremendous bat speed. I won't be surprised if she hits 20 out this year. They'll quit pitching to her."

Carter could occasionally play third base, which might leave freshman Kara Case behind the plate.

An experienced pitching staff returns in senior Allyson Shoulders and junior Raini Gerometta.

Shoulders was also a TSCA All-State honoree and was selected as the district's most valuable pitcher as a junior, producing a 12-6 record and a 3.51 earned-run average (ERA). In 116 innings, Shoulders -- a Cumberland University signee -- struck out 122 hitters while issuing 43 base on balls.

At the plate, she had a .495 batting average with seven doubles, three home runs and 35 runs batted in (RBI).

"She is a good leader," Conditt said. "Her and Rachel (Ritchie) are both good leaders. Rachel is really outgoing. Allyson is more reserved. She's going to get everything done. She's kind of a coach on the side.

"I expect power and consistency, the long ball ... doubles, triples and home runs. She's worked on her speed. She's gotten faster. She's going to be better."

Gerometta -- a pitcher and first baseman who was an all-district selection in 2018 -- finished with a .356 batting average and drove in 23 runs, producing five doubles, one triple and one home run.

Gerometta had a 10-7 pitching record with a 4.33 ERA, striking out 57 hitters in 82 innings.

"They've been starters for three years," Conditt said of Gerometta and Allyson Shoulders. "It's experience. They've worked hard in the offseason, going to lessons and trying to get better. They have more of a pop in their pitch this year."

Freshman Allie Warner is another option in the pitcher's circle.

Gerometta, Shoulders and sophomore Madilyn Goodall are all options at first base, but Goodall could also be at third base, as could junior Olivia Belton.

Goodall -- an all-freshman team selection -- had a .367 batting average with 10 doubles, one home run, 20 runs scored and 18 runs batted in.

Warner and classmate Myle Crowder are options at second base, though freshman Makenzie Stafford could also see action there.

"They're all playing travel ball," Conditt said. "It makes a difference."

Junior Abby Shoulders -- who has been competing as a part of the Macon County High girls basketball team during the softball team's preseason -- is the returning starter at shortstop.

Stafford and Crowder are other options at shortstop.

Abby Shoulders -- another all-district selection who was also selected to the 8-AA All-Tournament Team -- hit .505 with 15 doubles, scored 38 runs, stole 28 bases and drove in 15 runs.

"She played a high-level of travel ball," Conditt said. "She'll be playing Division I (collegiately) one day. She's in charge of the infield. She's a player. She's a good kid, a lovable kid. She has a great personality.

"She's aggressive. She thinks everything is an extra-base hit. She's the best base threat we have on the team. She gives her body up. She plays hard, and she knows how to play the game."

Ritchie returns in rightfield, and either Belton or Crowder will be in centerfield.

"We can't drop the ball (in the outfield)," Conditt said. "We have to keep the ball off the dirt. We have to catch fly balls. We have to keep the ball from hitting the ground. Last year, that was one of the inconsistencies we had."

Ritchie hit .367 with 29 runs scored and 29 RBI last season.

Belton's strength lies in her versatility.

"She's a versatile player," Conditt said. "If I ask her to play any position except catch or pitch, she could do it. She'll play anywhere I ask her to. She always has a smile on her face. She's a team player."

Freshman Trista Jenkins, junior Morgan Spivey and sophomore Alexis Dean are battling for playing time in leftfield. Spivey hit .333 last season, scored 14 runs and drove in 15 runs.

"She's hitting the ball," Conditt said of Dean. "She's catching everything hit to her. She's working hard. She's staying after practice. She's slapping as well as hitting."

Conditt believes that the team could exceed last year's total of 21 home runs.

"Trista Jenkins has a lot of pop," Conditt said. "Allyson has hit some out this spring. I expect Olivia to hit some. I expect Madilyn to hit some. Rachel may hit some. It's hard to make a lineup out.

"They need to believe in themselves, hit the ball and be consistent. We have several kids who can come through. It doesn't always have to about you. You have (quality) teammates."

The Tigerettes graduated just two seniors -- all-district selections Keeley Clariday and Meagan Frye -- to graduation from last season.

"We told them the other day what their roles were," Conditt said. "We expect some to be singles (hitters). We expect some to be doubles, triples and home-run hitters. I expect power out of Carter, Allyson, Madison, Trista, Raini ... I expect doubles, triples and home runs ... and they know that. The girls have taken hitting lessons. We've been working them hitting all fall and winter (with former Austin Peay player Jennifer Brady).

"This is probably the funnest team I've ever coached. Of all the years I've been coaching, this is by far the best personality of kids I've ever coached. If you tell them they did something wrong, they'll try to do it right. I can't wait to play."

DeKalb County won the District 8-AA Tournament and Region 4-AA Tournament last season before falling to Sweetwater in a Class AA sectional contest. Upperman was the district's regular-season champion before falling to DeKalb County in the district final, and Livingston Academy placed third in 8-AA during the regular season.

"You have to beat DeKalb (County)," Conditt said. "You have to beat Upperman. You have to beat Watertown. You have to beat Livingston (Academy).

"Any time, they could all beat us, or we could beat them. At any given time, any team could win."

Macon County hosts White County on Monday in the two teams' season opener. The Tigerettes start district play on March 19, facing visiting Cannon County.

Macon County High softball schedule

Date|Location/Opponent|Time

March 11|vs. White County|5:30 p.m.

March 12|vs. Portland|5 p.m.

March 14-16|at Gordonsville Tournament (in Sparta, Cookeville)|TBA

March 18|vs. Gordonsville|2 p.m.

March 19|vs. Cannon County|5 p.m.

March 21|vs. DeKalb County|5 p.m.

March 22-23|at Macon County Tournament (in Cookeville)|TBA

March 26|vs. Watertown|5 p.m.

March 28|at Upperman|5 p.m.

March 29-30|at Upper Cumberland Tournament (in Cookeville)|TBA

April 2|at Smith County|4 p.m.

April 4|at Shelbyville|7 p.m.

April 8|at Monroe County (Kentucky)|5:30 p.m.

April 10|vs. Westmoreland|5 p.m.

April 11|at DeKalb County|5 p.m.

April 16|at Cannon County|5 p.m.

April 18|at Watertown|5 p.m.

April 19-20|at Easter Classic (in Cookeville)|TBA

April 22|at York Institute|5 p.m.

April 24|at Livingston Academy| 5 p.m.

April 25|vs. Smith County|5 p.m.

April 29|at Gordonsville| 5 p.m.

May 2| District 8-AA Tournament play-in game|TBA

May 8-10|District 8-AA Tournament| TBA