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Arkansas' best high school softball players: Meet the state's top underclassman pitchers

Underclassman pitchers to watch in the coming seasons

By Kyle Sutherland | Photo by Mountain View Booster Club 

With the high school softball season wrapped up, SBLive is looking at some of the best underclassman pitchers across all classifications in Arkansas that earned a key role in varsity for the first time. 

There are many standout pitchers in Arkansas, and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. You can discuss the other underclassman pitchers worthy of fans’ attention in 2023 by connecting with us on Twitter at @SBLiveARK or by emailing

Zamari Ball | North Little Rock | FR

Ball was one of the primary arms used by the Lady Charging Wildcats this season. She threw 27.2 innings, struck out 27 batters, and compiled a 4.55 ERA. She held her own for the majority of the April 24 contest against eventual 6A champion Bryant as NLR was down just a run with her in the circle through five innings. 

Abigail Blythe | Russellville | SO

Blythe mostly pitched for the Lady Cyclones' JV team prior to this season, but earned one of the top spots in the rotation as a sophomore and expects to be their ace next season. She threw 68.1 innings and struck out 63 batters while compiling a 3.17 ERA and earned victories over 5A state semifinalists Van Buren and Greenwood.  

Darby Burnett | Bentonville | FR

Bentonville had two future Power 5 arms in the circle so Burnett did not throw a ton of innings, but she made the most of her opportunities when she was out there. In 10 innings she struck out 16 batters and compiled a .70 ERA. Burnett's most notable performance was a one-hit, 16-0 shutout over Marion finishing with four strikeouts. 

Emma Day | Mountain View | FR

Day faced the tough task of throwing every inning (128.2) in her first varsity season. She struck out 211 batters, including a career-high 20 against Newport, while compiling a 3.97 ERA. At the plate, Day hit .311 with a .386 on-base percentage as well as eight extra base hits and scored 12 runs.

Neci Hill | DeWitt | SO

Hill is one of many underclassmen players that the Lady Dragons are excited about for the future. She won 15 games while striking out 130 batters in 113 innings compiling a 2.16 ERA and held opposing batters to a .191 average in conference play.

Krissyn Icenhower | Dierks | FR

Icenhower battled all season for the Lady Outlaws winning 18 games. She threw 175 innings while compiling a 2.68 ERA, and was also effective at the plate batting .486 with 18 runs batted in and 17 runs scored. 

Christina Ingram | Hot Springs Lakeside | FR

The freshman learning curves were displayed, but so was Ingram's abilities as she won 13 games for the Lady Rams with five of her seven losses being to teams that made the state tournament. She struck out 52 batters in 99 innings, while batting .300 at the plate with two home runs, 14 RBIs, four doubles, and two triples.

Kendal Jones | Dumas | FR

Jones shouldered the load (77 innings) for the Lady Bobcats and led them to a first-place finish in the 3A-8 regular season standings as well as district championship, a 3A-4 regional championship, and a 3A state tournament berth. Jones struck out 141 batters and compiled a 1.22 ERA.

Gracie Keeling | Maumelle | FR

Maumelle is in good shape at least for the next three seasons with two quality young arms that includes Keeling. She struck out 117 batters in 75 innings and batted .369 with a .537 on-base percentage at the plate. 

Sylvia King | Conway | FR

King was solid all year, but even more so when you consider she was the sole arm as a freshman in the state's highest classification. King compiled a 2.91 ERA and punched out 150 batters in 151.2 innings. At the plate, King slashed .314/.377/.514 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, and 16 RBIs. 

Reese Lackey | Lake Hamilton | FR

Lackey showed her potential in the circle striking out 75 batters in 68 innings compiling a 3.30 ERA. However, she looked like a seasoned veteran at the plate leading the Lady Wolves with a .588/.646/1.098 slash line, as well as 12 doubles, four triples, two home runs, and 31 RBIs.

Kaylee McDonald | Des Arc | FR

Des Arc is coming off of its best season in school history finishing second in the 2A-6 thanks in large part to McDonald's efforts both offensively and defensively. She struck out 169 in 98 innings and held opposing batters to a .097 BAA while compiling a 1.27 ERA. At the plate, McDonald batted .405 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.

Azzy Morrow | Benton | FR

With a generational talent in Alyssa Houston earning most of the innings for Benton, Morrow also contributed at other spots but will certainly be one to watch in the circle moving forward. Morrow punched out 33 batters in 21 innings while compiling a 1.33 ERA. 

Melody Peppers | Lonoke | FR

Peppers put this Lady Jackrabbits squad on her back striking out 111 batters in 92.2 innings while compiling a 2.90 earned run average. At the plate, Peppers batted .320 with three doubles, three triples, and smacked three home runs. 

Bethany Roper | White Hall | FR

The highlight of Roper's season was a 7-4 upset over 5A-Central top seed Beebe in the first round of the 5A state tournament as she struck out four in a complete game effort. On the year, Roper struck out 83 in 112.2 innings and compiled a 3.67 ERA, while slashing .316/.418/.553 at the plate with seven doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 17 RBIs.

Sophie Stone | White Hall | FR

Stone does not have a large body of work at this point, but she did throw 47.2 innings and struck out 20 batters. Offensively, Stone compiled a .663 OPS and had 14 runs batted in while scoring 30 runs. 

Addison Thomas | Mena | SO

It took some time to lock in, but by the end of this season Thomas earned more innings and was a solid one-two punch with ace Abi Koppein. In 49.1 innings, Thomas struck out 88 batters while slashing .300/.344/.333 at the plate. Thomas had a career high 15 strikeouts against Pottsville.

Kallie Thornton | Melbourne | FR

Thornton battled an ankle injury towards the end of the year, but her production was evident all season throwing 22 complete games, including seven shutouts, one no-hitter, and one perfect game. She struck out 177 batters in 135 innings compiling a 2.18 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .205 average. 

Layla Ward | Maumelle | FR

Ward also contributes in the middle infield when not pitching, but she had an outstanding year at the plate leading the team in both batting average (.630) and on-base percentage (.734). In the circle, Ward struck out 79 batters in 53.2 innings. 

Kendall Watson | Malvern | FR

Watson was asked to do a lot and she didn't back down whether in the circle, or wherever she was needed. She struck out 65 batters in 73 innings compiling a 3.74 ERA, while slashing .452/.565/.822 with six doubles, three triples, five home runs, and 26 RBIs at the plate. 

Mason Wilson | Sheridan | FR

Sheridan has a bevy of arms, but Wilson made her way into the rotation and impressed. She struck out 35 batters in 52 innings while compiling a 2.79 ERA, walked only 19 of 224 batters faced, and held opposing batters to a .219 average. Wilson threw a no-hitter against Hot Springs Lakeside and allowed just three hits with no earned runs in the Lady 'Jackets' first round state tournament win over Maumelle.