seth@mckinziesportsreport.com

By: Seth McKinzie

*This feature on Bailey Elmore is sponsored by Teasley Drug in Gravette. Check them out on Facebook, their website, or give them a call at: 479-787-5966*

Bailey Elmore delivers a pitch during the 2018 season. Photo Credit: Ben Goff, NW Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Just before the 2018 softball season, almost every local softball fan knew the Gravette Lady Lions were poised to make a deep run into the 4A State Tournament and were one of the few true contenders to win a state championship. An injury to Cally Kildow made most people look away from the Lady Lions. Message boards were full of comments about Gravette not being a legitimate threat.

Instead of listening to the naysayers, and feeling sorry for themselves, Gravette would press on to finish 23-7, win the 4A-1 District Tournament, the 4A North Regional Tournament, and make it to the 4A Semifinals for the second straight season. While Kildow watched from the dugout, a new face emerged in the circle in Bailey Elmore.

Elmore, a sophomore in 2018, threw over 124 innings, with a 12-3 record, and chalked up 110 strikeouts.  Not only was she fantastic as a pitcher, she also finished with a batting average of .415, 38 RBI, and three homeruns. Elmore was so good, in fact, she was named 4A All State.

Now, with the 2019 season only two days away, Elmore and the Lady Lions are ready to take care of business. The biggest difference? The Lady Lions bring back both Elmore and Kildow.

Entering last season, Elmore knew her role would be expanded. She handled it with the approach of an player with tons of experience.

“I try to stay level headed,” said Elmore. “When I heard about Cally’s injury, I knew that people would be worried without her and I felt a lot of pressure. But I knew I could handle it. I just focused on the things I could control. My ability, hard work, and being there for my teammates.”

The cohesiveness of the Lady Lions softball program is something that is mentioned many times when talking to fans, coaches, and local media. Elmore leaned on that last season both as the journey began and the grind of the schedule churned.

“It helps growing up playing and traveling with most of them (teammates),” said Elmore. “We already had an understanding of each other’s abilities on the field and I knew they were there to back me up. I knew they believed in me and I believed in them.”

The junior knows the team has a lot of talent and is looking forward to seeing how some of her fellow Lady Lions perform in 2019. She believes there are several players poised to have breakout seasons but one in particular is beginning to stand out to her.

“We have so many really good players,” said Elmore. “I think our whole lineup is strong. Any one of them can step up and give us big numbers. I think Meghan Woodmancy will do well.”

Elmore has not let the success of last season satisfy her hunger for self-improvement. She has a goal to play at the next level but also has set secondary goals she strives to reach.

“My dad always said if I work hard on climbing through the small goals the big one will take care of itself,” said Elmore. “So, it might be gaining one or two miles an hour pitching or being able to hit one out at front toss. I just keep working.”

Just like her teammates, Elmore knows the ultimate goal is reaching the state championship game and winning it. How that goal is attained is something for which she has a plan.

“I think to play for a state title we really need to commit to each other and put in the work,” said Elmore. “We have the talent. We have always been contenders for a title since my freshman year yet people still doubt and overlook us. For me that gives me a little extra push to win a state title for the team and the town.”

Elmore has taken a fairly modest approach to how she wants this season to go.

“To prepare I really try to just be the best ‘me’ that I can,” said Elmore. “Year-round I continue to pitch and hit outside of practice. I watch a lot of softball with my dad and discuss strategy and pitch sequencing to be a smarter player. But really going into the season I’m thinking one thing: win State.”

Elmore and the Lady Lions have unfinished business in 2019. With their quiver completely full they should be a very fun team to follow.

Gravette hosts Rogers on Friday, March 1, at 5:00.

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