Football may be just a around the corner, but prep softball starts Friday for area teams.
Both Oak Hill Academy and Hebron Christian School softball teams hit the diamond to kick off the 2011-12 season.
Oak Hill had a few speed bumps early in the summer after a summer league they were slated to play in fell through, yet they still managed to play as a unit against several area teams for a home-and-home series. Because of summer camps and other activities head coach Marion Bratton had a hard time getting all the girls together, several of whom have never played under him.
On the mound, the Lady Raiders will be led by the tag team of junior Mamie Allen and sophomore Megan Ellis, who last season as a freshman won some huge ball games when their backs were against the wall.
The Lady Raiders have 17 games slated for the 2011 season, not to mention two tournaments, both in Starkville that could give them as many as three more games before the playoffs start September 24.
The conference schedule will arguably be one of the toughest this season after the MAIS did some reshuffling of the teams; gone is Carroll Academy and added are Canton Academy, Immanuel Christian School and current AA state champion Leake Academy.
â€śManchester and Canton are both solid ball clubs,â€ť Bratton said. â€śSo with Leake thrown in there, wow. Thatâ€™s going to be tough"
When itâ€™s all said and done, only two can make it to the post-season. Oak Hill has been there three of the last five seasons.
â€śThereâ€™s not much room for error,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s basically a short season. If your not in the playoffs by the third week of September, your seasonâ€™s pretty much over.â€ť
The Lady Raiders will be tested early on in front of their home crowd against AAA Heritage Academy Friday, followed by Starkville Academy (August 1).
Hebron takes the field this season with a fresh set of new faces. Coming off an undefeated district campaign and 27-13 overall record, the Lady Eagles will have to overcome losing seven seniors from last season.
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 Cass 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
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.
The four returnees were among the leading offensive powers from a year ago as well as the squads top pitcher, junior Chloe Tapley who racked up 293 strikeouts and a .437 batting average.
The girls had a quiet summer, not playing as a unit but with several travel teams from the region. They didn't start formal practice until last week.
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. The girls also have a non-conference battle with Heritage this season.
â€śI think our district this year is more competitive than itâ€™s been since Iâ€™ve been coaching,â€ť Tapley said.
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 at the Magnolia Heights tournament in Senatobia Friday.View more articles in: