WEST POINT -- Depth was a problem for Oak Hill Academy fast-pitch softball coach Marion Bratton in 2009. Season-ending injuries to Paige Dawkins and Mary Helon Hays left the Lady Raiders without two starters and created openings for younger players. Without two key contributors on offense, Bratton's team had little margin for error and was forced to live with the growing pains associated with an inexperienced squad.
Cass Tapley hopes experience equals urgency this season. A year ago, the Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball coach could only scratch his head and wonder about his team. The Lady Eagles sputtered through the first part of the season and seldom resembled the team Tapley knew it could be.
Bud Lowe will play a numbers game this season. The hope for Lowe, who is in his first season as Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball coach, is that those numbers -- how many players he has on his team and how many victories the squad gets -- will only get bigger.
STARKVILLE -- The No. 21, worn by the late Keffer McGee, will remain a symbol of Mississippi State football history as the only unofficial retired jersey.
PITTSBURGH -- Paul Maholm is like any major leaguer who wants to play for a winner. But for the southpaw of the Pittsburgh Pirates, that means being patient. Maholm, who pitched at Mississippi State from 2001-03, is in his sixth season with the Pirates and he has yet to play on a winning team. Pittsburgh hasn't had a winning season since the 1992 team made the playoffs, and Maholm is biding his time until the organization can reverse its fortunes.
Walt Simmons has plenty of stories to tell. Whether it has been at Oak Hill Academy in West Point or at the University of West Alabama in Livingston, Ala., Simmons has left his mark as a standout athlete. He also has learned more than his share of valuable lessons from peers who were more talented and more experienced. Now working as a career coach at Gadsden State Community College, Simmons' job is to help high school and college students figure out what direction they want to take their lives and the best way to realize their goals.
Two former West Lowndes High School student-athletes will depart next month for new college homes. On Tuesday, recent West Lowndes graduate Demetrius Malone signed a scholarship to play baseball and basketball at Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale. Malone won't be the Panthers' only former multi-sport athlete to take his skills to junior college in August.
Bubba Davis and Aaron Lee are excited to be part of the Immanuel Center for Christian Education's growth. For Davis, it's only natural he will work in his role on the football field. The former football coach at West Point and Columbus high schools recently finalized plans to work as an assistant coach to Shawn Gates on the ICCE football team. Davis already has begun work with Gates and assistant coach Daniel Merchant and Lee, who also will work as an assistant football coach, girls track and field coach, and a Spanish teacher at the school.
STARKVILLE -- A move here. A move there. Let's see if that works. For much of Jessica Dickens' time as head coach of Starkville Academy softball, that has been the order of readying the team for the 2010 season. The former Leake Academy standout spent two seasons as an assistant on Randy Haynes' staff and took over in the spring following his swan song in 2009.
The West Lowndes Amateur Athletic Union basketball program hopes it can finish the season as quickly as it started it. Coming off a 15-0 start, the West Lowndes' 17-and-under boys basketball team will join its other boys and girls age group teams at The King of Kings Summer Closeout, which begins this weekend in Memphis, Tenn.
Rusty Greene has always enjoyed dabbling in the graphic arts. When he attended Mississippi University for Women, he thought that area of study would be something he would do professionally for the rest of his life. But Greene changed his mind just about when he was ready to receive his degree and decided to go back to school to become a teacher and a coach.
Brittany Tillery was shocked when she found out she'd made the Gulf South Conference All-Decade softball team. No one else was surprised.
The University of Mississippi has the papers. Is Houston Nutt thinking clearly enough to say no? That question could be answered very soon, as the Ole Miss football coach decides what to do about former University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
MACON -- The names might be different, but the approach will stay the same. That's the message Sammy Lindsey and the rest of the Central Academy fast-pitch softball team want opponents to know this season.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State's track and field programs are in trusted hands after the university announced Monday the promotions of veteran coach Al Schmidt and longtime assistant and alumnus Steve Dudley. After 22 seasons leading MSU's track teams, Schmidt will now work as director of track and field. He will oversee day-to-day operations at Spencer Stadium/Maddox Track and continue to recruit.
CLEVELAND -- Swim Columbus' Corey Persons, Aaron Meek, and Ladd Chain and Shockwave's Hannah Wilson, Robert Fisher, Matt Williams, and Rachel Dees posted first-place finishes Sunday on the final day of the Long Course State Championships at Delta State University. Persons won the 13- to 14-year-old boys 100-meter backstroke in a time of 1 minute, 5.88 seconds. He also finished fifth in the 50 free (28.22). Meek won the 11-12 boys 50 back with a time of 36.08, while Chain won the 11-12 boys 50 freestyle (28.02) and the 11-12 boys 100 butterfly (1:12.05).
Hours of summer workouts, 7-on-7 games and time spent at college camps culminate today with the start of practice for area high school football teams. For the coverage area's two largest high schools, Columbus and Starkville, today's two-a-days mark the start of new coaching regimes. Jamie Mitchell had the spring to acclimate to his players at Starkville, while his Class 6A counterpart, Tony Stanford, made the transition of Bubba Davis' sudden retirement easier by being promoted from defensive coordinator to the top job on July 2.
HAMILTON -- Leaders do it all. Dylan Earnest and Katie Beth Dahlem epitomized that concept this season for the Hamilton High School baseball and fast-pitch softball teams.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Expectations did their best to crush the University of Mississippi football team's season in 2009. Imagine coach Houston Nutt's horror last year when he was asked if his team could have a successful season if it didn't go to Atlanta, the site of the Southeastern Conference Championship game.
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