July 27, 2013 10:20:42 PM
WEST POINT -- New season, new attitude, new result.
If one game is any indication, Karlie Lockhart is prepared to have a sophomore season to remember for the Starkville Academy fast-pitch softball team.
Lockhart scattered four hits, walked two, and struck out seven in six innings Friday to lead Starkville Academy to a 10-4 victory against Oak Hill Academy in the season opener for both teams.
Lockhart, a right-hander, also had a single and an RBI to help the Lady Volunteers erase the memory of an 18-0 loss to the Lady Raiders in last season's first game. Lockhart pitched in that matchup that featured 16 walks and five hit batters by Starkville Academy pitchers.
This year, though, Lockhart looks like a more confident pitcher. She walked her only two batters in the fourth inning, when Oak Hill Academy scored one run. The Lady Raiders might have scored more if not for a fine running catch in left field by Maridee Higginbotham in left field. Lockhart then worked out of the jam by moving quickly to her left to snare a blooper near first base.
A year ago, Lockhart felt the Lady Volunteers "gave up a lot." That attitude may have been attributed to the team's youth. The team remains fairly young after the loss of Mary Austin Barber to graduation and the addition of Higginbotham and senior Nora Kathryn Carroll from the school's two-time state championship girls basketball team. Despite the fact she still is an underclassmen, Lockhart didn't look like it. She appeared to keep her emotions in check in the circle even when she didn't get the call she wanted from the umpire.
It was a far cry from last year, when things didn't go her way.
"I got a bad attitude, which is a main problem a bunch of us have, and I just didn't do good. That just ruined everything," Lockhart said.
Lockhart said she has more of an open mind this season and is working hard to stay patient with herself and with her teammates.
Starkville Academy coach Kayla Mosley was impressed with what she saw from the new Lockhart.
"That is the best game I have ever seen her pitch," Mosley said. "When you can put the ball across the plate and give yourself a chance, then you have a chance to win. She did that, and struck some batters out. She pitched a great game."
Lockhart started the season in the circle for the Lady Volunteers year, but Mosley said Lockhart gave way to Barber, who moved into the circle from shortstop. Mosley said maturity is the main difference with Lockhart.
"Last year, she was a freshman and pitching against juniors and seniors, and it is intimidating," Mosley said. "She got a little bit of experience under her belt last year, and she has been throwing every day this year. Every practice we have she is there working before or after. She has put herself in the best possible position to be successful."
Lockhart also is trying to give herself more room to succeed. She said she plans to take a break if something doesn't go right so she can regroup and go back to attacking the hitters.
"I thought I did better than I usually do," Lockhart said. "I could have probably done better if I didn't get frustrated a couple of times. When I walk people, I know I can better, and I know I don't have to walk them. It just bothers me when I do that. I know I can do better. I know I can push myself to do better, but, for some reason, I just don't."
Oak Hill Academy played without Maegen Ellis, who is in California playing with the Mississippi Elite 16-and-under travel ball team at the Amateur Softball Association Nationals. First-year coach Nathan Ellis, who is Maegen's brother, liked the way his team hit the ball. Even though the Lady Raiders had only four hits, he thought they made good contact against Lockhart.
Unfortunately, Oak Hill Academy was a little too generous. The Lady Raiders walked seven and hit two batters. Five of the batters who walked scored, as did one of the batters who was hit by a pitch. The Lady Volunteers scored six of their runs on wild pitches.
Still, eighth-grader Peyton Teffeteller allowed only four hits.
"We did pretty good," Ellis said. "I was very excited and pleased with the first game. We were a little shaky because it has been raining all this week and we only got on the field Monday, but the hitting was good."
Oak Hill Academy will play at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Winona Christian, while Starkville Academy will play at 4 p.m. Monday at Central Academy.
n Hebron Christian School 10, Jackson Academy 1: At Pheba, Holly Hudson (run), Rebeka Joy Falkner (double, three runs), and Brooke Griffin (inside-the-park home run) each had two hits Friday to lead the Lady Eagles, a Class A school, to their victory against the Class AAA opponents.
Victoria Ferguson and Laura Smith (run) also had hits, and Subrina Oswalt scored three runs to help welcome back coach Cass Tapley to the bench. Tapley didn't coach the team last season.
"I think it was a nice first game," Tapley said. "We played our game with solid defense, throwing strikes, and putting the ball in play. Brooke did a great job throwing strikes and at the plate."
Griffin struck out six and didn't allow a hit in five innings. Tapley said he would have left her in the game if he had known she was throwing a no-hitter. Falkner struck out one and didn't allow a hit to complete the no-hitter.
"Everybody on the team did their part," Tapley said. "The JA pitcher wasn't bad, and we didn't have a strikeout and got all our bunts down. We had a few baserunning mistakes that kept us from ending the game earlier, but we have to use a lot of smoke and mirrors, and the girls didn't miss a single sign all night. Outside of Brooke's effort, that maybe the thing I am most proud of."
Jackson Academy won the junior varsity game 9-0. Tapley said pitchers Brynn Latham, Madison Thompson, Millie Hudson, and Holly Hudson gained valuable experience.
"I expect Holly to throw well, but Madison came in and did well in her one inning with a couple strikeouts," Tapley said. "I am pretty sure she has never been in the circle for Hebron before."
Hebron Christian will play host to Winston Academy at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.