By GENE PHELPS
Here’s a safe preseason bet as high school slow pitch softball season begins today – Hamilton will not defend its Class 2A championship.
It’s not because the Lady Lions lack talent. First-year head coach Bryan Loague welcomes back five seniors off the 2012 state title club.
No, it’s because Hamilton is no longer a 2A member. They dropped to 1A when the MHSAA re-classified its member schools.
However, dominating play in 1A is no easy chore. Not when you share your division (1-1A) with two-time defending state champion – and Monroe County rival – Smithville.
“People need to come watch softball if they think it’s easy to win in 1A,” Loague said. “If we play well together, we have a shot at beating anybody.”
Taylor Hyland, a shortstop, is one of the five returning seniors. The others are pitcher Alison Atkins, Cheyenne Logan, Jordyn Jackson and Raimi Byran.
The upcoming division games between Hamilton and Smithville have stirred up interest. The two could meet next week in the Monroe County Tournament.
“My players are already talking about it,” Loague noted.
Smithville, which lost just one starter off its championship club, looks forward to the matchups against the Lions.
“My players accept the challenge,” Lady Seminoles coach Jeremy Duke said. “We used to be rivals a long time ago.”
Smithville is led by third baseman Breanna Edgeworth, shortstop Lane Kennedy and outfielders Laken Armstrong and Billie Claire Goode.
NO ILLEGAL BATS
The National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) rule book says only bats with Amateur Softball Association (ASA) 2000 and 2004 stickers are legal.
No other bats are acceptable, says Northeast Mississippi umpire John Smillie, including the newest ASA-approved bats. The Mississippi High School Activities Associations follows the NFHS rules for softball.
“It could cause some controversy,” Smillie said. “A lot of parents have gone out and bought them (the new bats).”
Batters caught using an illegal bat will be called out and ejected from the game. The coach will be ejected, too.
Aberdeen, Alcorn Central, Pontotoc, Ripley and Tremont are not playing slow-pitch this season.