It's a blend of veterans and newcomers for Joplin High School's softball team this fall.

"We have a couple of upperclassmen who have been good leaders," Eagles coach Manny Flores said. "And we have two freshmen who will see a lot of time, three or four sophomores who will see a lot of time. It's a nice mix."

The Eagles open their season this weekend with their 15th annual Paige Neal/Christina Freeman Tournament, sponsored in part by the Joplin Sports Authority, at the Joplin Athletic Complex.

Joplin plays three games on Friday against Seneca at 10 a.m., Park Hill South at 11:45 and Nevada at 3:15.

Flores is part of the newness on the Eagles' team. He comes to Joplin after being head coach at Liberty High School in Wentzville, and he succeeds Jakki Prater, who left to become an assistant at Missouri Southern.

"It's for family reasons," Flores explained. "My wife is from the Springfield area. We wanted to move closer, and we had our second child over the summer. I looked at different jobs open down here, saw Joplin was open, put in my application and the rest is history."

The Eagles went 8-21 last season and were 1-8 in their first year in the Central Ozark Conference.

"The girls have bee working really hard," said Flores, whose assistants are Brenden Schneider and Alex Leonhart. "They've been executing, controlling the control-ables — attitude and effort every day and not let things outside our control affect how we go about our business."

The Eagles have youth and depth on their pitching staff with junior Brittany Shryock, sophomore Madisyn Tracy and freshman Jill McDaniel all expected to see action.

"We are confident in all three," Flores said. "All three give us different looks. Brittany does a good job of pounding the strike zone and attacking hitters. Jill has great offspeed stuff to keep the hitters off balance. Madisyn throws a little harder but needs to work on her control a little bit."

Sophomore catcher Liz Snider has been slowed a wrist injury during practice. If she isn't available, freshman Izzy Yust will get the start.

Joplin's probable infielders are senior Addison Wallace or junior Candace Bryant at first base, senior Jocee Weston at second base, junior Layni Merriman at shortstop and Tracy or Bryant at third.

Around the outfield are junior Tatum Stogsdill in left, senior Gabby Quinn in center and senior Madi Farber or Yust in right.

After Friday's three games, the Eagles will play twice on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The opponents will be determined by Friday's results.

"We cannot wait to get started," Flores said. "I feel like we just moved here the other day. We still have work to do, but we're excited to get the tournament under way to open the season.

"Mr. (Matt) Hiatt (JHS athletics director) told me about the history of the tournament. This is the 15th year, my first one. I'm excited. We have 12 teams coming down. It should be good softball this weekend."

Paige Neal/Christina Freeman Tournament

At Joplin Athletic Complex

Friday's Games

10 a.m. — Joplin vs. Seneca, Neosho vs. Carthage, Webb City vs. Lamar

11:45 — Joplin vs. Park Hill South, Neosho vs. Staley, Webb City vs. Carl Junction

1:30 p.m.—Seneca vs. Nevada, Carthage vs. Blue Springs, Lamar vs. Columbia Rock Bridge

3:15 — Joplin vs. Nevada, Neosho vs. Blue Springs, Webb City vs. Rock Bridge

5 — Seneca vs. Park Hill South, Carthage vs. Staley, Lamar vs. Carl Junction

6:45 — Nevada vs. Park Hill South, Blue Springs vs. Staley, Rock Bridge vs. Carl Junction

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