Play Day kicks off softball pre-season
Spring time weather blossomed just in time Saturday for the opening of the prep softball pre-season with the annual trip to the Hillard Gardner Sports Complex in Shelbyville for the Golden Eaglettes Play Day featuring all three Marshall County schools preparing for the upcoming season opener on March 14.
The Forrest Lady Rockets, making their first appearance after capturing the program's second Class-A state title last season went 2-2.
"Our girls know that they are part of a tradition, and therefore they will always give their best," Forrest coach Becky Cheatham said. "The support for Forrest softball is incredible."
Forrest started the Play Day with back-to-back losses to Warren County (2-0) and Cornersville (6-4) before coming back with wins over host Shelbyville (12-0) and the Marshall County Tigerettes (2-0).
"We were pleased with the defensive performance for the most part, we had some mental errors, but everyone was nervous," Cheatham said. "We have a lot of young girls and after they gained a little confidence they held their own. When our hitting catches up than we should be competitive."
The Lady Rockets basically ran the table last season, winning their final 17 games in a row while posting a 35-5 record with undefeated marks in all Class A competition, district tournament, region tournament and Spring Fling play.
Lost is the entire middle of the defense as catcher Savannah Brothers, pitcher Katie Warrick and center fielder Kiyoko Puca have all graduated, along with left fielder and leadoff hitter Briar Mays.
Forrest has three seniors this season in Piper Elmore, Kelsie Darnell and Amanda Patterson and will be without District 9-A Defensive Player of the Year Lainey Mays, who will not be back with the team this year.
Slugger Samantha King, who will more than likely also be the starter in the circle is the lone junior, but what Cheatham does have is a deep and talented group of under classmen ready to step up to the plate in an attempt to capture back-to-back state championships.
"As I told the team Saturday, we were a little disappointed with your performance in the first two games, but you just need to relax and play the way that you are capable of playing. I wouldn't trade you for any other team, because you are a good group of girls who always tries to do the right thing---so just relax and play ball and everything else will fall into place."
Tigerettes go 3-1
The Marshall County Tigerettes, coming off a 20-11 season and a District 12-AA title won 3-of-4 on Saturday, beating Community (11-4), Fayetteville City (10-0), and Moore County (2-0), while losing to Forrest 2-0.
"We were very aggressive at the plate and they had a lot of energy and were ready to play the games," Marshall County coach Heather Denton said. "Of course there are somethings we need to work on, but overall they played well."
MCHS lost five seniors from the squad and all played big roles as Kenzie Anderson, Grace Medley, Jacey Perryman, Mecia Reed, and District 12-AA MVP Ashton Watkins have all departed for the college campus.
Emily Martin, Kendra Moore and Allison Sheroski lead the group of seniors this year at Lewisburg, while the sophomore class is loaded with talent in Halle Chapman, Kathryn Donahue, Courtney Edde, Alli Hobbs, Leah Hollingsworth, Hannah Sheppard, Sydne Solomon, Taylor Walls and Madison Southerland.
"We have only been on the field together five days because of the weather, so we need more time to get a rhythm together," Denton said. "I thought they worked well together this weekend and I can't wait to see what they will do when we get more practice and live play."
Denton also has freshmen Brooklin Conger, Marlee Woodward, Tracie Edde, Savannah Wooten, Taylor Poteete, Annie Hawkins and Lexi Cashion, who all will be surely called upon as the long season progresses.
"We have a great amount of potential and talent," Denton said. "We have the potential to win the district again and move past the region. That is our goal."
The Tigerettes only gave up six runs in the four games on Saturday and pitched two shutouts, making Denton very positive about what she saw and a clear path to what needs to be worked on for MCHS to get ready for the start of the regular season.
"We need to take advantage of opportunities and we can't leave base runners on in scoring position," Denton said. "Since we are young, we need to play smart and use our talent. Lastly, we are working on doing the small things right, every detail matters because little things turn into big things."
Lady Bulldog power
The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs, who went 12-9 last year, losing to Columbia Academy in the District 11-A title game, started out the new season with a bang, going undefeated at Shelbyville.
Cornersville tied Coffee County 1-1 before beating Forrest 6-4, Community 10-0 and finishing up with a 5-2 win over Moore County.
"We (coaches) thought we performed well for our first outing, we made a few mistakes in the field, such as getting better angles in the outfield, fixing some mental mistakes we made in different slap coverages and picking up signs in the batter's box," Cornersville coach Eric Crabtree said. "My seniors really stepped up and took the leadership role and have worked hard at mentoring the younger players"
Seniors Carson Coble, Miranda Cooksey and Madison Spivey lead Crabtree's talented squad that also includes a strong junior class Madison Hopkins, Taylor Ingram, Samantha Prosser, Kirsten Young, Beathann Oberlander and Alanna Braden.
Sophomore Mikaela King will get the ball in the circle for the Lady Dawgs and is joined by classmates Emma Mitchell, Taylor Powers, Hannah Singleton, Hannah Hart, Kianna Holder and Ali Jones.
"Defensively we are pleased with how we performed and they should only get better as the years goes on," Crabtree stated. "Our pitching staff is young and had a very good outing and will continue to improve, but the key to our success is going to be hitting and that is our focus as a coaching staff."
Crabtree has the biggest squad he can remember in a long time that also includes freshmen Gabby King, Anna Allen, Daisy Braden, Mollie Caldwell, Hannah Crabtree, Milli Davis, Demi Peters, Nathalie Hagerdon and Sarah Prosser.
Asked what it would take to get the squad ready to win the District 11-A title and get back to the state tournament days Crabtree said, "We have to stay hungry and continue to work hard and better ourselves each day, stay stingy defensively, stay aggressive at the plate and stay focused as we strive to achieve our team goals."