When the Hebron Lady Eagles take the softball field this fall, there might be a few unfamiliar faces.
Just four varsity players return from 2010 to a team filled with seventh and eighth graders who last year shined on the junior varsity squad.
Although the girls had a quiet summer as a unit, head coach Cass Tapley said they have been busy with playing summer ball on travel teams.
â€śThis year our age ranges were so big, we donâ€™t have a lot of players in between,â€ť he said. â€śSo I thought it was best we didnâ€™t do anything as a team. Weather thatâ€™s going to be good or bad, I donâ€™t know. Weâ€™ll find out.â€ť
But thatâ€™s not to say the girls werenâ€™t getting ready to follow up on a 27-13 season last year in which Hebron won the district, finished second at North State and finished third in the state championships; that was with seven seniors on the roster and two All-State selections.
â€śItâ€™s totally different this year because we always had those seniors coming up that played together ever summer and the younger ones played with them,â€ť Tapley said who is entering his fourth season in charge of the Lady Eagles. â€śThese girls are going to be new to each other.â€ť
Tapley said heâ€™s even had to change his schedule up a little bit.
Normally they would battle whoever one state the year before, now â€śweâ€™re taking baby steps.â€ť
â€śBut weâ€™re gong to be okay and going to be competitive,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m not writing us off. I plan on winning the district and going to state.
Itâ€™s just going to take us a little time.â€ť
One could argue that Hebron will have the targets on their backs once again this season, but Tapley said there is no pressure on the young team this season to put up another stellar performance on the diamond. Good news for the Lady Eagles is the four returnees from last year were some of the top hitters offensively along with their top pitcher and catcher.
Junior Chloe Tapley returns to the circle as the teamsâ€™ top pitcher. The former 2008 and 2010 district MVP and the Commercial Dispatch player of the year last season racked up 293 strikeouts and a .437 batting average.
â€śIt pretty much starts with her,â€ť Tapley said.
Aliana Hill returns to don the mask behind the plate as a sophomore. Both Chloe Tapley and Hill have greatly improved after a successful summer with the Houston Heat.
Beverly Blake and Tori Nichols will be the lone seniors this year. Blake, a very versatile athlete can play almost anywhere, while the 6â€™3 Nichols will command first base.
Tapley believes he has a quality crop of younger players that will certainly step up now that it is their time including: eighth graders Victoria Ferguson and Brynn Latham as well as seventh graders Rebecca Joy Faulkner, Holly Hudson, and Brooke Griffin. Sophomores Subrina Oswalt and Hannah Loper are also expected to compete for starting positions. Savannah Gable and Millie Hudson have now been in the program and we are looking for them to step up this year.
Tapley though has one goal he feels the Lady Eagles can win.
Unfortunately, there are five other schools, (Calhoun Academy, Central Academy, Kemper Academy, Regents School of Oxford and Winona Christian) who are all vying for the same title.
â€śI think our district this year is more competitive than itâ€™s been since Iâ€™ve been coaching,â€ť Tapley said. â€śI think all five teams we have are pretty much close to the same. I think anybody can win it.â€ť Kemper he said will be the team to beat because they have more athletes and older athletes on their roster.
The Lady Eagles open the season on the road this Friday at Senatobia where they take on Magnolia Heights followed by Kirk Academy. Then Saturday they play Delta Academy followed by Lee (Ark).View more articles in: