NCHS ready to make runBy ROBBIE ROBERTSON,
For the last two years, Newton County has fielded a “young” fast-pitch softball team.
But after two straight years and nine starters back from last year, the Lady Cougars can no longer be considered young, despite having only one senior in the starting lineup.
The Lady Cougars are coming off a 22-10 season that saw them get eliminated in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in a pair of 5-3 losses to East Central.
With all of that experience, long-time Newton County coach Justin Chaney likes his chances.
“We should be able to have a chance this year,” Chaney said. “I think experience wise, there is no doubt about it. You can tell in practice. They know what to do, it’s just a matter of executing. There is nothing they haven’t seen.”
The Lady Cougars lone returning senior is Jessi Thaggard, who will start in right field.
“She has always done exactly what we have asked her to do and that’s easy to coach,” Chaney said. “She never misses a practice, ever. She sets an example for those younger kids. That’s how she leads, she leads by example.”
Junior Brittany Thomas returns after a monster season last year where she led the team with a .385 batting average. She was also 11-4 on the mound with a 1.42 ERA with 74 strikeouts.
She is joined on the mound by junior Shelby Anderson who was 9-5 last year with a 3.02 ERA and 54 strikeouts. Chaney said he has also been impressed with Lauren Ivey and Mackenzie Rigdon in workouts this spring.
Other starters returning are Lauren Ivey (.267), Lizzie Hollingsworth (.299), Jada McDougle (.329), Katlyn Gipson (.256), Landree Amis (.205) and Karlee Tolbird (.338).
Chaney said one of the keys this season will be better offensive production.
“I think we need a better understanding at the plate,” Chaney said. “The teams we play, they are going to have good pitchers. I think we have to be wiser at the plate and from everything I have seen, we have done that.”
Newton County competes in Division 5-4A with West Lauderdale, Northeast Lauderdale, Northeast Jones and Quitman.
“It’s as tough as it has ever been,” Chaney said of the division. “West Lauderdale makes it really inter esting. That’s already a big rivalry game, and now it’s a division game that will determine some sort of seeding and it just adds to it.”