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For existing for only nine years, the Ava High School softball squad has racked up an impressive array of wins and titles.
This week, we will be discussing three years in which the Lady Bears seemed to dominate the field.
The 2004 squad ended the season with a record of 20-4.
“This was a very good ball club,” Coach Rex Sawyer said.
The team won the Branson Tournament against very stiff competition, and placed second in the Reeds Spring Tournament.
“This was just all around a fantastic team,” Sawyer said.
He noted that the seniors on the squad were freshmen the first year that Ava had softball.
First Team All-District selections in 2004 were Nicole Robertson, Jamie Eller and Tatum Hatchcock. Aymee Nash was a second team selection.
Hathcock was also an All-Ozark honorable mention as a pitcher.
The 2006 season ended with a 20-8 record and a narrow district championship loss for the Lady Bears.
Ava was beat in the district finals by Boliver (at Boliver) by a 9-3 margin.
“It was actually a much closer game than it appears,” Sawyer said. “We had a chance to put them away, but we made a running blunder on the base path.”
One of the issues facing the Lady Bears was that their starting pitcher, Kendra Dering, had injured her back a few weeks prior.
“She was in for the Bolivar game, but she had to sit out two games prior to that,” Sawyer said.
Ava beat Willard in the district semi-finals by a 2-1 count to face Bolivar.
First Team All-District selections were Danielle Cheyney, Jessie Sawyer and Kendra Dering. Tara Dering was second team selection.
“I really thought Tara should have been a first-team selection as well,” Sawyer said.
When the season began, Sawyer said that the squad had high hopes…and most of them were fulfilled.
The team won the Branson Tournament against tough competition, and also played in the Joplin Tournament against teams from Missouri and Oklahoma.
During the Branson Tournament, the Lady Bears defeated Nixa by a 6-2 count.
“Nixa had a very good squad that year,” Sawyer said.
Danielle Cheyney led the squad with a .375 percent batting average, followed by Jasmine Miller and Jessie Sawyer, both at .321.
On the mound, Kendra Dering had 16 wins and 8 losses, with a total of 171 batters struck out.
Tara Dering had a record of 3-1, with a total of 22 batters struck out.
Seniors on Ava’s squad included Jessie Sawyer, Tara Dering, Amanda Whitely, Kerre Shrable and Brandi Little.
Starters included: Tara Dering (third base), Kendra Dering (pitcher), Caitlin Elliott (first base), Jessie Sawyer (second base), Danielle Cheyney (shortstop), Kerre Shrable (right field), Jasmine Miller (left field), Amanda Whitely (center field), Amanda Burkdoll (catcher) and Kayla Marrs (designated player).
The team was coached by Sawyer, who was assisted by Clint Gazette and Tim Lansdown.
When the season began, Sawyer said there was concerns about losing four seniors, but he was glad to have his starting pitcher (Kendra Dering) back in the lineup.
The team finished the season with a 14-9 record and the Ava sport’s first district championship.
The Lady Bears beat Marshfield by a 2-0 count to clinch the district championship. However, they lost to Union High School in the sectionals round of the state playoffs by a 2-0 count.
In the district championship, Kendra Dering threw a no-hitter, quite a feat in the sport.
Sawyer said he was disappointed that the squad didn’t go past sectionals, but he was happy with the district win.
“It was a good ball game (against Union),” Sawyer said. “They were just a little better than us.”
First Team All-District selections were Danielle Cheyney, Jasmine Miller, Kendra Dering and Amanda Burkdoll.
Also that year, Kendra Dering was an All-Ozark second-team selection as a pitcher.
To start the season, the Lady Bears fell to Glendale High School by a 5-4 count.
They went on to play in the Morrisville Tournament, where they took third place.
They then went on a winning streak, clinching five or six victories.
They then played in the Branson Tournament, where they took second place to Carthage, losing 7-2 in the championship game.
The rest of the season was up and down, Sawyer said, until the district finals were reached.
“We’d win one, then we’d lose one,” he said.
The seniors for the 2007 season were Brandy Graham, Danielle Cheyney, Caitlin Elliott and Jasmine Miller.
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