August 22, 2009 11:33:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- It wasn''t really all about winning Saturday at the Starkville Sportsplex softball fields.
Although scores were kept, the main purpose of the sixth-annual College Exposure Tournament was to showcase the talent of the 14 Mississippi Association of Independent School teams participating.
The tournament was directed by the Delta State softball team, and it gave coach Kasey Charles and her staff a front-row seat to watch potential recruits.
Delta State pitcher Kate Moreland spent some of her high school career in the Starkville Academy program, so Charles knows there are good players in MAIS.
"This was a great opportunity for us, and we''re excited to be here," Charles said. "(Players in MAIS) don''t get the exposure they deserve because they play in the fall. What''s good for us is we don''t play very much in the fall, so it gives us an opportunity to come out and watch a lot of these girls play."
Six college and junior college coaches checked in throughout the day. Mississippi State assistant Karen Johns and University of Mississippi assistant Staci Ramsey represented their staffs.
Johns, the former coach at the University of Florida, has only been on the job with coach Jay Miller for a month, so she was happy to take the short recruiting trip across town.
"It''s great for us to be able to see the private school talent all in one spot," Johns said. "We had a beautiful day for it, so it''s very beneficial for us to see where the talent level is and to meet some of the coaches. We''re thrilled to have this in Starkville."
Johns said finding talented players s just part of recruiting. She said schools also have to identify players who really want to take their skills to the next level.
Ramsey believes softball at Mississippi''s public and private schools is improving and credits Starkville for having a quality tournament at the sportsplex.
"It''s great to come out here, have the great facilities that they do, and to be able to see some good ball being played," Ramsey said. "It''s good for us to get our name out there for them, too. They know about football and things like that, but softball, too. It''s good to see people from different areas. You''ve got people from Memphis and some from down in Jackson. It ranges from all around."
Tournament organizer Dan Moreland said the tournament continues to grow. He hopes more coaches make plans to evaluate MAIS players in the future.
Starkville Academy coach Randy Haynes believes his seniors Lyndsey Haynes, Renee Tatum, and Kylie Lockhart can move on to the next level, but he said the team''s best prospect could be junior catcher Bailey Wofford.
"She''s never been injured, but has a smoking hot bat and all the tools a college catcher needs," Haynes said.
In a round-robin format where there''s no champion, Haynes said the tournament name says it all -- "it''s all about the exposure."
The event started slowly in the morning due to wet grounds. Heritage Academy coach Ginny Lowery said it was difficult to keep her players motivated to play.
"It was hard to wait three hours to play our first game, but they were excited to be here," Lowery said.
Lowery didn''t think having the college coaches at the event put any added pressure on her seniors. Pitcher Kristyn Atkins has made visited several schools and has worked with college pitching coaches, so she already has started the recruiting process.
Still, Atkins wanted to put on a good show.
"I''m trying to use all my pitches and a bigger variety to show different coaches who might be watching," Atkins said. "I want them to get a look at everything I can throw."
Atkins helped the Lady Patriots win two of three games and had 19 strikeouts. She had nine strikeouts in a 2-0 loss to Carroll Academy and added four more in a 5-4 extra-inning victory against Central Academy. She finished with a two-hitter and six strikeouts in a 6-1 victory against Winston Academy.
Central Academy coach Pres Dawkins hoped seniors Veronica Rodriguez, Julianna Persons, Lillian Lindsey, and Alex Dawkins and his other players attracted some attention Saturday.
"It''s up to them to show the coaches what they''ve got," Dawkins said.
Alex Dawkins pitched against Heritage Academy. She pitched through a streak of wildness to start the game and then settled down to strike out four in three innings.
Alex Dawkins said she has contacted some colleges, but said there is nothing like playing the game when college coaches are watching.
"I''m hoping to go to college and play, maybe start off at a junior college," Dawkins said. "I hope they are looking at me more than just pitching, but infield and outfield also."
n Heritage Academy 5, Central Academy 4: Morgan Lamb drove in the winning run in the sixth inning when the international tiebreaker rule was used.
Lamb had two singles, while Casey Taylor added the other single.
Kendall Taylor had two singles and Kellie Hailey and Persons had one single each for Central Academy.
n Heritage Academy 6, Winston Academy 1: Atkins had three singles to back her pitching effort.
Katlyn Petty added a single and double.
Rachel Reed and Courtney Morgan singled for Winston Academy.
n Carroll Academy 2, Heritage Academy 0: Atkins had two singles, while Petty and Madison Ford had one single each for the Lady Patriots'' only hits.
Carroll Academy scored two unearned runs in the fourth inning.
n Central Academy 3, Winston Academy 1: The Lady Vikings broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the fourth.
Rodriguez and Taylor had two singles each, while Persons added a double. Corey Dawkins, Blake Rigdon, and Hailey also singled.
Lindsey was the winning pitcher. She allowed three singles to Jessica Webb, Hayden Stokes, and Morgan (losing pitcher).
n Hebron Christian 7, Carroll Academy 6: After taking a 7-3 lead in the top of the fourth, the Lady Eagles held on in the shortened game.
Taylor Lancaster had a double and single to lead the seven-hit attack, while Brittany Ousley added a double and Cathryn Moore, Magen Tapley, Shelby Arnold, and Prysilla Skelton had one single each.
Chloe Tapley had five strikeouts and only gave up two hits.
"We were just out here to play," said Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley, whose team doesn''t have any seniors. "Chloe is probably our best player as a freshman, and she''ll tell you real quick she will probably get a scholarship by staying in the library more than on a softball field."
Hebron Christian''s junior varsity also defeated Carroll Academy 8-3.
n Copiah Academy 5, Starkville Academy 2: The Lady Volunteers had nine hits but trouble scoring runs.
Wofford and Mary Austin Barber had two singles each for Starkville Academy.
n Jackson Prep 7, Winston Academy 1: Webb drove in a run in the first with a double for the Lady Patriots'' only run.
Reed had three singles for Winston Academy.
n Bayou Academy 2, Starkville Academy 0: After Starkville Academy earned a forfeit win against Madison-Ridgeland Academy, the Lady Volunteers played what turned out to be a shortened exhibition game that doesn''t count on the record.
Wofford and Julianna Jackson had the only hits for the Lady Volunteers.
Haynes had eight strikeouts.