Gators playing for veteran coach Rut Horne
NATCHEZ — A year removed from high school softball, Cathedral High School alumna Ginny Daggett decided to give the sport one more go.
Daggett, 18, who just finished her freshman year at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, hadn’t played softball since last summer, but since the Dixie Youth cutoff age is 18, she said she wanted to play summer ball one last time.
And the reason is simple: Ferriday Gators head coach Rut Horne.
Horne has been coaching Daggett since before she was in high school, and since Horne doesn’t have a World Series title to his name, Daggett said she wants to help him achieve the ultimate prize. So she chose to be a member of this year’s Gators squad.
“Why would I (play)? I’m playing for Paw Paw,” Daggett said, using her nickname for Horne.
Daggett is one of six players who are in their final year of eligibility for Dixie Youth summer ball, and she said the veterans have their sights set on a World Series berth.
“I definitely think we want it more than ever,” she said.
Horne said much of his roster is made up of players who have played for him since they were 12 or 13. Two players, Laura Perilloux and Kennedy Beard, rejoined his team for the first time since their trip to the Dixie World Series in 2009.
“It’s a veteran team,” Horne said. “There are no weak links. We have five good pitchers, and the newest girl, (Trinity Episcopal’s) Marty Lewis is 13 and is holding her own versus 18-year-olds.”
Though his players may have their hearts set on winning Horne a title, Horne said he’s not putting too much pressure on them.
“We want to have a good showing, and we’ll do the best we can,” Horne said. “Just to make it (to the World Series) would be great.”
Recent Cathedral High School graduate Kimble Devening, 18, said she’s happy to play for Horne for the final time. At first, it was difficult for Horne to find enough players to fill a team this season, but Devening said she and the others felt it important to play for Horne.
“He’s probably not going to have many people next year, and this the last chance for all of us,” Devening said. “We don’t want to disappoint.”
Beard, who graduated from Vidalia High School in 2012, played softball for Bossier Parish Community College this past spring. Playing college ball has enabled her to not miss a beat when adjusting to summer ball, she said.
“It helps a lot,” Beard said. “My batting average went up, I got a lot quicker and I’ve had less errors in the field.”
Daggett, by contrast, said she was having trouble getting used to playing again after almost a year’s hiatus.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Daggett admitted. “I thought I’d be able to hop back in, but I’m a little rusty.”
Devening said she’s enjoyed playing for Horne all these years and will miss his coaching when she’s finished.
“He’s looking for ways to make you better all the time,” Devening said. “He’s always encouraging you.”
Horne said he’s humbled that his players have developed such a fondness for him.
“It means a lot to me, and they’re the ones who show up for practice every day, too,” Horne said.