NCHS adds to its legacyBy ROBBIE ROBERTSON,
The Newton County softball dynasty just keeps on growing.
The Lady Cougars added a 12th slow-pitch title to that collection on Saturday as they battled back from a Game 1 loss to beat Nettleton.
Despite winning their fifth straight title, Newton County coach Justin Chaney was overcome with emotion after the title was in hand.
“I doesn’t get old because of the grind and the work,” Chaney said. “It’s all about them and we have a special bond. It’s fun to coach a group like this. I don’t know why I’m so emotional right now. I guess it’s because of how much I care about these kids. I got on them after the first game and they responded. I was worried because I didn’t know if we could beat them two games in a row. But these girls are special and work really hard.”
Chaney’s emotion started when he presented the championship medallion to his lone senior, Jessie Thaggard.
“Jessie knows her role on this team,” Chaney said. “She goes out there and plays hard every day. It’s hard to play right field but she has made it her home for the last three years. She’s a program builder. She comes to work every day but she does everything you ask her to do. To be able to give her that medallion and hug her neck and tell her that I love her is special. You have to have kids like her. She is never going to miss and is going to show the young ones and that’s what being a Lady Cougar is all about. I’m proud for her to be able to go out in style in slow pitch.”
Thaggard was excited after the game, taking photos with her teammates and sharing her last slow-pitch title. It was her eighth state championship at Newton County and fifth straight in slow-pitch.
“I’m super excited,” Thaggard said after the game. “This is my senior year and this is a big accomplishment for us. I was excited to come out on top in slow-pitch for my senior year.
“Really hard work pays off, from all the running that we do in the summer to lifting weights, it really paid off, so I’m just super excited. All the girls show a lot of love, so being the only senior isn’t that tough.”
And the winning is far from over for the Lady Cougars who will return nine starters next year. One of those is junior pitcher Katelyn Gipson, who pitched the entire season for the Lady Cougars and had three home runs in the championship series.
“We made a few errors in that first game that allowed them to score a few runs and after that it went down hill from there,” Gipson said. “In the second game, we strung some hits together and things ended up going our way. This just doesn’t get old. It’s still a big deal, it’s special that we got to do it with this group one more time.”
While Chaney was praising his team for the accomplishments, he also took time to thank several other people.
“First of all, I couldn’t do this without my wife,” Chaney said. “She flew up from Laurel after my sons’ games to be there. She never misses and takes care of the family while we are in season. She never fusses about what I do and is the perfect coaches wife.
“And I’d like to thank my assistant coaches, Shelby Bishop and Catherine Brand. They do a tremendous job for me. Being a part of this whole school system is ecstatic and I wouldn’t want to coach anywhere else. The administration, starting with the superintendent, make this all possible.