December 19, 2009 11:04:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Lyndsey Haynes doesn''t miss softball yet.
The Starkville Academy pitcher admits she has reflected on her senior season and thought about what could have been after the Lady Volunteers finished third at the North Half State tournament.
A change in the playoff format this season meant that showing wasn''t good enough by one place to push Starkville Academy into the overall Mississippi Association of Independent Schools AAA state tournament.
But while missing the state tournament stung a little bit, Haynes has focused more on the team''s success. The Lady Volunteers'' 23-8 finish was their best in recent memory, and Haynes had a lot to do with it.
Whether it was in the circle or at the plate, Haynes had a knack for delivering in the clutch.
For her accomplishments this season, Haynes is The Commercial Dispatch Fast-pitch Player of the Year.
Haynes finished the
season with a 1.56 ERA and a batting average of .407.
Starkville Academy coach Randy Haynes, who is Lyndsey''s father, credits coach Kyle Morgan for helping to get all of the Lady Volunteers in shape in the offseason and preseason. He said the conditioning work the players did helped Lyndsey, who was coming back after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, return with stronger legs, which benefited her in the
"It was mainly mentally," Haynes said of the injury. "Knowing I had that injury with my knee affected me pitching and hitting a little bit. Pitching, I couldn''t stride out as far as I usually did. The injury didn''t hold me back any this year."
In August, Haynes earned four victories in the circle to help the Lady Volunteers win the Starkville Invitational Tournament at the Mississippi State intramural fields. She earned victories against Winston Academy, Central Academy, and two against Pillow Academy to help her team win its first tournament title since 2004.
Haynes'' effort was even more impressive considering she pitched against Oak Hill Academy, Central Academy, Kemper Academy, and Leake Academy in four of the five days leading up to the tournament.
The work didn''t seem to faze Haynes, who faced 107 batters in 22 innings. She walked only seven, struck out 26, and allowed 27 hits in the tournament.
"Coach Morgan helped explain to her and get across to her that this was her senior season," coach Haynes said. "He talked to her about leadership and how all of the young players looked up to her and that they were going to follow her lead."
Haynes also credited catcher Bailey Wofford, who has caught Lyndsey for the past three seasons. The duo had a unique system in which they didn''t use conventional signs to indicate what pitch Haynes was going to throw. The tell-tale sign for a fastball might have been a flip of the hair, but coach Haynes said he trusted his catcher and pitcher so much he left calling pitches up to them.
"It freed us up to look at the big picture of the game," Haynes said. "They did a lot of stuff on their own to get us to where we got."
Haynes had success because she threw in the upper 50s and low 60s and mixed a tantalizing changeup. She had a lot of success with the pitch at the North Half State tournament and in the MAIS All-Star game, where she was named the MVP for the North Half. She had six RBIs in two games.
"It became such a weapon," Haynes said of his daughter''s changeup. "There wasn''t anybody until we got to the All-Star game, where there were a couple of kids with enough talent to deal with it. Her changeup became really, really good."
Haynes'' senior season was the culmination of a softball career that began when she was 7 years old. She played travel ball with a team out of Tuscaloosa, Ala., for four years and was a member of the team that finished fifth in the NSA World Series in 2004 or 2005.
From there, Haynes moved into the circle at Starkville Academy. She said she grew so much as a pitcher because she was so confident she could work with Wofford and focus as well as she did. As a result, she learned how to block out mistakes and to concentrate on the hitters.
"It is the first year I have ever not worried about how the team was playing behind me," Haynes said. "It helped a lot when they were doing good, but you can''t worry about it.
"I think I wanted it more my senior year. I knew I wasn''t going to play in college, so I really wanted to give it my all my senior year."
Even though the future will be filled with different challenges -- she will study nursing at Mississippi University for Women -- Haynes said she always will have fond memories of the sport. She believes she won''t feel the urge to play softball again until next fall when another season is primed to begin.
This time, though, Haynes will be content to watch from the stands because she will be able to look back and be satisfied with everything she accomplished.
"We had a great season," Haynes said. "Our goal at the first day of practice was not to have an average season because we have had like a 16-15 season for the past three years. As a team, we reached that goal and did a lot better than we usually do.
"For me, my goal was to do better pitching, and I felt I did better pitching."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.