July 30, 2009 1:58:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
Starkville Academy softball coach Randy Haynes expects to have a stronger team on the field this season.
There were signs in the summer league at the Starkville Sportsplex that the Lady Volunteers could be better than last year''s 18-17 record.
"When we played with all of our roster we played very well," Haynes said. "All of the teams (in the summer) were missing players at various times. When we were at full force, we were pretty good."
With a defensive unit Haynes calls "sufficient," Starkville Academy''s main focus in the summer was hitting.
Haynes believes the Lady Volunteers are more comfortable at the plate this season.
"We seem to be able to produce more runs, where a lot of times last year we would load the bases with no outs and still not be able to push runs across," Haynes said. "This year will be different because we''ve learned how to score runs."
Starkville Academy will look for leadership from Renee Tatum, Lyndsey Haynes, Megan Aucoin, and Bailey Wofford to help key contributors like Megan Aucoin, Emily Gregory, Morgan Collier, Sarah Lewis, Megan Jones, Jordan Bowman, and Shelby Marsh.
Lyndsey Haynes will be the Lady Volunteers'' starting pitcher, and coach Haynes, who is also her father, expects her to be stronger coming off anterior cruciate ligament surgery last year.
"I think she has picked up a little bit of speed and has picked up on a riseball," Haynes said. "That has given her an extra pitch to get out of some bad situations."
Going into Friday''s season opener against Kemper Academy at home, Haynes said his team is sharpening its hitting and baserunning.
Haynes said the Lady Volunteers'''' defense and baserunning will have to find ways to replace the losses of Kyla Morgan, Lauren McClelland, and Nikki Miller.
"These girls watched last year and went ahead, bit the bullet, and practiced their baserunning," Haynes said.
One would think Hebron Christian School coach Cass Tapley would have a problem with no seniors on his roster.
But when one of those returning players is freshman pitcher Chloe Tapley, who earned the district Most Valuable Player honors last year, things might not be all bad.
"We should be pretty solid (at pitcher) as long as she stays healthy," said Tapley of his daughter.
Tapley said the Lady Eagles used the summer to build experience and to get other pitchers ready to back up Chloe.
Hebron has a strong class of juniors with Catheryn Moore, Magen Tapley, Hillary Arnold, Dakota Hillhouse, Candice Phelps, Prysilla Skelton, and Sara Langford. Sophomores Beverly Blake and Jessica McKee also will contribute.
Tapley believes the Lady Eagles have a chance to be a pretty solid hitting team if they can avoid taking too many called third strikes.
"I like where we are now," Tapley said. "We should be pretty solid hitting one through nine.
"Our defense is probably suspect. That''s probably our weakest area and usually it always is if you have a pretty decent strikeout pitcher. Pitching and hitting should be our strong points."
Hebron will open the season Saturday at the Bayou Academy Tournament. It will play Aug. 4. at Heritage Academy.
Oak Hill Academy
The Lady Raiders are having to overcome adversity after the loss of veterans Mary Helen Hays and Paige Dawkins.
Hays, the starting third baseman last season, will be out six weeks with a stress fracture in her lower leg, while Dawkins, the starting first baseman, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Although the losses will affect the team, coach Marion Bratton is anxious to move forward with a young team.
"With Mary Helen and Paige banged up, they were the three and four place hitters in our lineup, so it will be tough being without them," Bratton said. "Other than that we''ve got good pitching and will be playing a bunch of young girls. We''re probably ninth-grade average, but we''ll be competitive. We''ll have some good moments and bad moments until they mature a little bit."
Bratton will rely on pitcher Mamie Allen and will look for contributions from Maegan Ellis, Abigail Turner, Megan Holton, Anna Clair Spradlin, Abby Faulkner, Ann Stevens, Anna Lumas, Hunter Coleman, Lauren Hunt, and Tori Ellis.
The Lady Raiders, who play at Starkville Academy on Monday, were 8-15 last season. Bratton was encouraged by a 10-2 showing in the high school summer league in Starkville.
There''s a new coach in charge of the Winston Academy program.
Chris Wells, of Noxapater, knows he has to keep a good thing going this season after the Lady Patriots advanced to the Mississippi Private School North State last season.
Despite losing some talent off that team, Wells believes there''s enough left to make another run deep into the playoffs.
"We''re looking at getting back to the postseason," Wells said. "We want to take it one step further (than North State). When you go into a season, that''s everybody''s goal, but we believe we have a pretty good shot at it."
Brittany Burton and Rachel Reed are senior leaders, and Jessica Webb is expected to shoulder the pitching responsibilities.
Winston Academy will open the season Aug. 4 at home against Leake Academy.