By Anvil Welch

Globe Sports Writer

Lamar has a convincing win under its belt against Ash Grove this prep softball season.

"In fact, it was 11-0 in five innings in its tournament,'' Lamar coach Mark Fleming said Tuesday. "But I'm sure we'll see a different and better pitcher. We have to assume we'll be facing their ace.''

The Ash Grove ace is junior left-hander Emily Downs.

"We aren't looking past Ash Grove,'' Fleming said. "We're focused. The seniors are determined.

"We are entering the game very positive,'' Fleming said. "It helps that we've played on their field.''

Lamar (19-7) visits Ash Grove (16-9) today for a sectional game in the MSHSAA Class 2 playoffs at 5 p.m.

Fleming said the Lady Tigers played "wonderful defense'' in winning the District 8 Tournament at Ewert Park in Joplin.

Lamar, seeded No. 1 among six teams, defeated Diamond 11-0 in five innings before nipping McAuley Catholic 3-2.

Lamar, which lost 4-0 to Strafford in the 2002 quarterfinals, has a quartet of four-year starters in pitcher Keri Forst, first baseman Bethany Shackelford, shortstop Jennifer Onstott and third baseman Britney McCulley.

The top five batters in the probable order key the offense. They are Forst, sophomore left fielder Kayla Piley, Shackelford, Onstott and center fielder Kara Kinney.

Onstott is averaging .457 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run and 25 runs batted in. Shackelford is averaging .418 with 26 RBI.

Piley, Forst and Kinney have respective batting averages of .377, .352 and .352. Piley has scored 24 runs and Forst 23.

Fleming said Lamar also relies on speed with Piley and Forst, both switch-hitters, stealing 31 and 30 bases, respectively. Onstott has swiped 24 sacks.

The right-handed Forst is 13-4 with a 0.88 earned run average. She has struck out 71 and walked 43 in 112 innings.

The probable order, following Kinney, consists of McCulley, senior catcher Jacqui Bogar, senior designated hitter Raeann Caruthers (for freshman second baseman Olivia Baldwin) and sophomore right fielder Molly Patton.

Fleming, who's assisted by Harvey Fry, has the Lamar program in its eighth year (the first two teams competed in the spring). Fleming has degrees from Southern Illinois-Carbondale and Southwestern Oklahoma State.

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