September 23, 2013 4:05:43 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Gary Harris knows the Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball is nowhere near where he thought it would be this point in the season.
But Harris has been coaching long enough to know that everything is wiped clean once the postseason begins.
That's why the second-year Heritage Academy coach hopes his team can shake off a 9-14 regular season and make waves in the "second season." The postseason is scheduled to begin Saturday, when Heritage Academy is set to play host to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, District 1 tournament.
Unfortunately, weather forecasts are calling for rain tonight and a 70-percent chance of rain Saturday, which Friday afternoon forced the tournament to be postponed until Monday at Propst Park.
Once the eight-team, double-elimination tournament is pared to four squads, action will shift to Heritage Academy, where the teams will fight for seeding for the Class AAA State tournament.
A year ago, the Lady Patriots surprised some by securing the No. 3 seed out of the North for the state tournament. This year, the team has had its share of ups and downs en route to a finish that left it as the No. 6 seed and with a matchup against third-seeded Madison-Ridgeland Academy at 10 a.m. Monday at the Redbird A field.
"We have not played up to our capabilities," Harris said. "We have been searching for the right answer, the right chemistry. We had one of those sit-down-and-work-it-out-sessions (Wednesday at practice) to try to get everybody on the same page because we are searching for answers. We are not pulling in the right direction. We have to have all of the oars going in the same direction if we are going to get this thing going straight."
Harris said it has been a challenge for him and the players to re-capture the momentum of last season, when the program made significant strides in Harris' first season. Two losses to Carroll Academy ended the regular season on a down note for the Lady Patriots, but Harris said he has been stressing that a new season begins Saturday. His hope is that the team meeting earlier this week will have cleared the air and allowed all of the players to put aside their differences and concentrate on one goal: Keeping the season alive.
"My biggest concern as a coach is we just think we're going to do the same thing we did last year and just walk into the tournament and surprise some people," Harris said. "I don't think that is going to be the case this year. We're not going to surprise people because people know what we did last year and they can't sleep on us. Are there teams out there better than us? Obviously because we are the No. 6 seed. But we can beat some of those teams, and they know that, too.
"Our kids have to know that we can't just show up. We had magic happen last year. We have to make it happen this year."
Pitcher Kaitlyn Oswalt is dealing with a sore pectoral muscle that bothered her at the end of the regular season. The transfer from New Hope High School has transitioned into the circle and taken over for Madison Sears. She hopes the team can learn from its meeting Wednesday, but she admits she isn't sure how things will turn out. She said the players talked about all of the negativity they had on their minds and the relationships they have with each other. She feels the conversation helped a lot and that she hopes the team capitalizes on its chance to have a fresh start.
"If we're not playing around during warmups you'll know we're serious and want to play," Oswalt said. "If we can hit, we usually do really good. If we can't hit, we usually do really bad."
Infielder Macy Walters also said the team benefited from the team meeting. She is looking forward to having the "home-field advantage," but she knows the team will have to adopt a new mind-set if it wants to experience the same kind of magic it felt last season.
"We're going to have to forget about everything that has gone on before and all of the team drama tat we have had or anything anyone has said," Walters said. "We're just going to have to treat it like a brand-new season and like nothing has every happened and that this is the beginning."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.