All-Metro softball: CHS pair get top nod
NATCHEZ — The Cathedral School softball team reached uncharted waters this season, and senior Ginny Daggett captained the ship on the Green Wave’s journey.
When Cathedral hit its biggest obstacle, in the form of a 0-1 series deficit in the South State Championship Series, Daggett took the pitching circle twice to win Games 2 and 3 to secure the school’s first South State Title.
“(Winning those games) was awesome considering I didn’t pitch that much, and I wanted to do it, because I finally got to pitch,” Daggett said. “It felt good. I was feeling it in my arm, but it felt good.”
Daggett’s ability to come up clutch in big situations, her 9-2 record in the circle and her huge offensive season earned her All-Metro Player of the Year honors this season.
Daggett said she appreciates being recognized over all of her softball peers, especially fellow Cathedral senior Beth Fortenbery.
“It feels pretty awesome,” she said. “Beth is just as good as I am, so this feels awesome.”
Daggett was the unquestioned leader of Cathedral’s offense this season. She finished with a .485 batting average, nine doubles, five triples and four home runs. She also stole 14 bases and had a slugging percentage of .804.
Cathedral head coach Gary Blackwell said he thinks the senior deserves all the honors she can get.
“She’s definitely deserving of the honor,” Blackwell said. “She had one heck of a year. Offensively, defensively and pitching, she had a great year.
“When you have a player like Ginny it helps your other players step up to the challenge and be that aggressive.”
One of Daggett’s hits stood out above the rest this season, she said.
Daggett smashed a grand-slam home run with her team trailing 3-2 in a crucial region matchup with Bogue Chitto to lead Cathedral to the region championship.
“That was my favorite highlight, because that’s how we won district,” Daggett said.
Despite all of Daggett’s accomplishments and Cathedral’s wins, she said her fondest memories would be the times she spent with her teammates.
“I’ll probably miss the fun we had at practice, and the jokes and nicknames,” she said. “I’ll miss the team pretty much. I’ll miss playing softball in general, practicing and having fun.”
Although the Green Wave fell short of a state championship, Daggett said she’s at peace with how things ended now that she’s had time to reflect on the season.
“It was exciting, but we never realized we won South State until it was over,” she said. “We didn’t get that we were going to state. It just didn’t feel that way at the time.”
Daggett said she hopes that her and Fortenbery have set the tone for the players they will leave behind.
“I hope they keep it up,” she said. “I told them they have big shoes to fill.”
Daggett now shares the honor of All-Metro Player of the Year with her sister, Betsy, who earned that recognition in 2010.
“I think it’s cool, because it feels like I was just doing this,” Betsy said about her sister’s recognition. “But she’s accomplished a lot more than I did.”
Coach of the Year
If Daggett was the captain on the field for the Green Wave, Blackwell was the man at the helm, who steered the team through the ups and downs of a 22-8-1 season.
Each time Cathedral fell, Blackwell managed to bring the team back up and respond, including taking the final two games of the South State Championship after dropping Game 1 10-0.
Cathedral’s run earned Blackwell this year’s All-Metro Coach of the Year honor, but he said with the amount of talent he was blessed with, his main role was that of inspirational speaker.
“My role, especially with this team, was to keep them motivated,” he said. “I had to keep them fired up, working hard and not let them slack up any.”
Blackwell said there are a lot of talented coaches in the Miss-Lou, and he is proud to be recognized as the top coach this season.
“It’s an honor to get recognition,” he said. “From Jonesville to Franklin County, there are some very good teams and coaches, and it’s a great honor.”
Cathedral’s success can also be attributed to Blackwell’s assistants, Mark Fortenbery and Tommy Milligan, he said.
“It’s because of the good help I have with my coaches and my team,” Blackwell said. “I accept this on behalf of my coaches.”
Blackwell said his team had its fire lit last season, when it fell short of its goals in the playoffs and this year he knew they had plenty of desire.
“They wanted it bad last year,” he said. “And they were in the zone this year. We never once talked about a state championship, but game by game I could that these girls had it in them.”
Blackwell said one of the turning points this season was a trip to Gulf Shores to face some of the top teams in the Southeast. The Green Wave struggled in the tournament and won just one game, but when they came back Blackwell could see they gained confidence, he said.
“We played some pretty powerful teams, but we knew after that what we could do.”
Cathedral won its next 13 games after that tournament.
Blackwell said his two ace pitchers, Daggett and Mollie Devening, made his job easier as well.
“One key to our success was having both pitchers, Mollie and Ginny, and being able to use them like we did,” Blackwell said. “We always had an ace in the hole. I had many a coach tell me they wish they had two like that.”
The season ended on a sour note for Blackwell as well, but he said the ride was much more memorable than the destination.
“It was pretty sad for the first few days,” Blackwell said about losing the state title. “But once we got back, we realized that our work did pay off, and I am so proud of these girls. We had never even been to South State. It was an exciting year.”
Cathedral will not have the services of Fortenbery and Daggett next season, but Blackwell feels the program will continue to grow.
“We will get all the girls in this summer working hard,” he said. “That’s what it takes to get to the level we want. We’ve got a good program, and our future looks bright.”
This season marked the third straight year that Blackwell and the Lady Green Wave have captured the region championship.