Glenn Dawson knew the situation when he accepted the reins of the Seymour High School softball team this spring.
He inherited a program without much past success.
Since fall softball was added nearly two decades ago, the Tigers have yet to post a winning fall season.
Above that, graduation left Seymour short six starters from last season, including both its pitchers, when the Tigers won nine fall games, the program’s highest total in more than a decade.
“I don’t think words can express how thrilled I was to get this job,” he said with a smile.
“This is a dream job for me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do ... to be a head coach.”
His enthusiasm has been contagious.
On the Seymour softball roster this fall are a record 22 girls, including 17 freshmen.
And despite fielding a young ballclub where freshmen will be forced into several starting roles, Dawson is certain his squad will be competitive this fall.
“We spent a lot of our summer putting kids in positions,” he explained. “We played 18 games this summer. Although we only went 2-16 and took our lumps, the improvement was evident. The more we played, the better we got.”
Dawson said that improvement has continued as his team has practiced this month before the start of the season this Saturday at the Halfway Tournament.
“I’m pleased with the process and the progress,” he said.
“The five girls who I’ve got who aren’t freshmen all are good players and will play huge roles for us. And the freshman class we have ... well, this has to be one of the most-athletic groups of girls Seymour High School has had in a long time.
“The girls now are starting to put it together. We’re beginning to gel. I’m very happy about where we are as a team.”
Leading the way for the Tigers will be a trio of multi-year senior letterwinners — Karli Henry, Macey Hubbard and Crystal Misemer.
Misemer, an all-Summit Conference and Class 2 all-district selection a year ago, is the team’s starting catcher.
She’s also the Tigers’ on-field leader.
“Crystal is our glue, our leader,” Dawson noted.
“She’s our leadoff hitter, she keeps everyone in focus. And she leads by example. No one works harder.”
Henry plays center field, while Hubbard is at first base.
All three girls posted batting averages above .350 last fall.
They also were the team’s leaders in runs scored and runs batted in.
Seymour’s lone junior is Shay Moore, who will hold down either left field or right field, depending on the situation.
Lillie Rasmussen is the Tigers’ solo sophomore and will play shortstop after earning all-conference accolades as a freshman last fall.
“With those five, there are the top five spots in our batting order,” Dawson said. “There’s not an easy out there. All five girls can hit the ball and make plays.”
The rest of the Seymour roster is freshmen.
That includes pitching duties.
Leading the Tigers’ pitching corps will be freshmen Hannah Clark and Alleigh Warren.
Dawson is very optimistic about both girls.
“Right now, I would call Alleigh and Hannah my co-No. 1 pitchers,” he said. “Hannah throws a lot of strikes. If she does that, we’ll be successful when she’s on the mound, because I feel we’ve got a good defense behind her.
“Alleigh is just a good pitcher with lots of talent. She can throw harder than Hannah. But I’m comfortable with either of them on the mound for us. Best of all, they’re just freshmen and are only going to get better.”
When Seymour played at a three-team jamboree last Friday at Norwood, the Tigers fared well, falling 2-1 to perennial state power Norwood, then defeating Willow Springs by a 7-6 count.
“Hannah threw 85-percent strikes at the jamboree, which is just amazing, while Alleigh threw strikes about 60 percent of the time,” Dawson said.
“I felt our pitching was a strength in both games.”
When Clark is pitching, Warren will play second base. If Warren is on the mound, Clark plays second.
At third base will be a freshman, Aubrie Fann, who Dawson said fields the position like a senior.
“She’ll bat in the No. 6 spot for us and is very good offensively,” Dawson said. “I’m very confident that our hitters in those top-six spots in the lineup will be productive.”
The third outfield spot will be manned by a freshman.
At the jamboree, it was Katelynn Smith.
“That position may be a revolving door for us until one of the girls seizes the spot,” Dawson said.
He said one of the squad’s strengths is hitting.
Another strength is numbers, buoyed by a large freshman class with a “ton of talent.”
“We’re young,” Dawson noted. “With 17 freshmen, there are going to be growing pains. You’ve got to realize that for most of these freshmen, they’ve gone from facing 12- and 13-year-old pitchers as seventh-graders to not having an eighth-grade season last spring because of COVID-19 to now facing 17- and 18-year-old pitchers as freshmen.
“That’s quite a difference. It will take time to adjust.”
Regardless, Dawson is excited about the upcoming season.
“I really feel that we can be competitive every game this fall,” he said. “I also feel we can win half of our games. If we can throw strikes, we’ll have a chance to win in every game we play.”
This Saturday in tourney action at Halfway, Seymour will take on Marshfield and Reeds Spring, a pair of Class 4 programs, in the first two rounds.
Saturday’s third opponent will be based on the Tigers’ result in the previous two matchups.
Next Tuesday, Seymour’s home opener arrives at 4:30 p.m. when Willow Springs visits.