June 18, 2010 11:40:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Thursday''s softball game between Starkville High and Starkville Academy featured teams in similar situations.
Both are trying to break in a new starting pitcher and to replace starters who graduated in the spring.
Starkville Academy''s junior varsity team, which features three players from last year''s varsity squad, escaped a furious Yellow Jacket rally for a 13-10 win.
The Lady Jackets sent Iyuna Clark to the circle, while Starkville Academy worked seventh-graders Karley Lockhart and Kaci Johns. The pitchers struggled with location as six runs scored on passed balls or wild pitches.
Morgan Lyle, Tori McClendon, and Lauren Ware each scored two runs for Starkville Academy. Shanice Campbell sparked a seven-run third inning with a three-run triple to right field.
For the Lady Volunteers, replacing Lyndsey Haynes is such a priority that catcher Bailey Wofford has moved to shortstop and shortstop Mary Austin Barber is handling pitching duties. Right fielder Julianne Jackson is splitting time at pitcher and catcher, giving the team a dramatic lineup shift after losing three seniors.
"We''re changing around everybody trying to see who can play where," Starkville Academy coach Jessica Dickens said. "We''re testing the water this summer, and I''m very thankful for this league to be able to do that. We''ve been practicing a little bit since April, and we''ve been able to look at it in practice, but it''s different when you get out here in a game. Once this league is over, we''re going to take about 14 days off, come back at and get ready for the season. We''ll get it together come July 30."
Starkville Academy has relied on youth the past two seasons, as Barber has started at shortstop since her eighth-grade season and Shelby Marsh started last season at third base as a seventh-grader.
The team will rely on at least one seventh-grader (second baseman Adrian Futral). Futral has started every varsity game this summer.
Lockhart and Johns have pitched for the junior varsity.
"They''re coming along well and have great futures ahead of them," Dickens said. "A lot of things are still up in the air right now, though. Some of the younger ones, who at another school probably wouldn''t have to play, are having to step up and fill roles."
Dickens stressed Wofford and Tyler Milner, the team''s lone seniors, need to take an increased role in leading the team.
"They have to step up this year. It has to happen," Dickens said.
Starkville High coach Mimi Milling, awaiting the birth of her first child, has passed the summer coaching duties to assistant Katherine Hackett but has kept up with the team''s progress. She coached Thursday''s game and left with positive feelings about the team''s late comeback.
For the second-straight year the Lady Jackets must replace their starting pitcher. Defections from the team rocked the catcher and third base positions.
Milling, a Starkville High graduate who''s determined to restore Lady Jacket softball to the level when she starred in the early 2000s, isn''t fazed by the turnover.
"I''m really excited about it," Milling said. "I''ve got a lot of things in mind I''m going to do differently. Some varsity starters are going to be pushed by these seventh-graders. They all want to win it, but I want the ones who can win it."
The Lady Jackets struggled in their first week of the summer season but turned around with a one-run loss, a 14-3 win and a 1-0 advantage in a game against Winston Academy that was called off due to lightning.
"You can see the progress, especially in the younger girls," Milling said. "These girls pull themselves together and finish ball games. I like where we''re heading."
black eagle commented at 6/18/2010 12:59:00 PM:
I see why Starkville and other golden triangle schools are always winning. They keep the sports going, there are no vacations. Columbus you need to pay attention on how to build a winning program. Columbus coach is at the park paying softball instead of working with her team. No wonder they got 10 run ruled in all their games. What's your record 0-12. SAD!
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