By Gene Phelps
Tupelo’s slow pitch softball season has turned out a lot better than senior second baseman Abby Cox thought it would.
Her team, one that nearly started the season in August without a coach, won its division championship and qualified for the state playoffs.
Josh Hegwood, who was hired in June as the Wave’s fast-pitch coach, became the slow-pitch coach a week before the season started. He replaced the former coach who left late in the summer. Brittney Robertson, who came from Alcorn Central, was a late hire as his assistant.
“Coach Hegwood’s done a really good job,” Cox said. “I was hoping this wouldn’t be a forgotten season. He helped us turn the program around and get some wins.”
Tupelo (12-6-1), which hosts Columbus today in a first-round, best-of-three game series, won enough key games to capture the Division 1-5A/6A title. Last year’s team was eliminated in a postseason play-in game while the 2011 squad stayed home.
Hegwood saw the team play one summer league game before taking the job.
“I was supposed to be the assistant (slow-pitch) coach,” Hegwood said. “I told (officials) that I’m here, I’ll take the slow-pitch job.
“I don’t know if we could have done much better this season with me not knowing the players and them not knowing me.”
Hegwood, who came to THS from Calhoun City High School, told his team they would not make any excuses about their play.
“The mindset was to eliminate distractions and just play softball,” he said.
Senior pitcher Reagan Aldridge, a five-year starter who leads the team with a .536 batting average, believes the late addition of Hegwood has worked well.
“We had met him, but we didn’t know he would be our (slow pitch) head coach,” she said. “This has been a special senior year.”
Cox agreed. “Our team, one that nobody thought would be any good, won our division,” she said.
There is a large chance of rain tonight in Northeast Mississippi, 50 percent in many areas. If postponements are necessary, games would likely be moved to Thursday.
Second-round games are scheduled for Saturday.