Jordan Phillips and Jalyn Mabe already share a strong bond entering their first year as Nixa teammates.
“We go way back. We were on the same 12U team together,” Phillips said.
‘Way back’ in this instance was actually only a few years ago. Mabe is now a 15-year-old sophomore and Phillips a 14-year-old freshman.
They will either make up the middle of Nixa’s starting infield or the left side of the Lady Eagles’ infield. Coach Matt Walker has Phillips penciled in as his starting shortstop and he is debating whether to start Mabe at second base or third base.
Both Mabe and Phillips are already accustomed to playing with and against players as much as a few years older than they are. Mabe played with a Louisville Sluggers 16U team over the summer, while Phillips played with a Tenacity 16U team.
“I wanted to be the most prepared I could be for high school,” Phillips said of ‘playing up.' "It got me used to the fast-pace environment high school is going to be.”
Mabe made her varsity debut as a wide-eyed freshman last year.
“I was terrified,” Mabe said of her first at-bat. “I was nervous at first. Once I got out there, though, it kind of felt natural, like just another softball game. Everyone was super encouraging. It was fun to be with older girls and learn from them.”
Mabe had the benefit of a mentor of sorts in former Lady Eagles shortstop Phoebe Gardner. They talked softball not only on the ball field and dugout, but to and from their homes and practices.
“She was my driver during the year. I got to ride with her to practices every day,” Mabe said.
Mabe showed she belonged at the varsity level. She singled in her first at-bat and went on to finish with a .464 batting average over 28 at-bats as a spot starter. She enjoyed three-hit games against both Willard and Republic.
“It helped a lot with my confidence,” Mabe said of her sudden success.
Looking ahead, Mabe and Phillips figure to be a big part of Nixa’s success. The Lady Eagles will debut Aug. 25 at Kickapoo.
“I'm looking forward to it,” Phillips said. “I’m excited for the season.”