Softball a big hit in Franklin Co.

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 21, 2000

Walter Beesley has seen the sport of softball come full circle.

&uot;I’ve lived long enough when fast-pitch softball was real popular in the early 1960s and ’70s and now it’s back,&uot;&160;said the 58-year-old Beesley. &uot;Back in the ’60s all they had was wooden bats to hit the ball so everybody said it was boring. But now they say slow pitch is boring.&uot;

Franklin County softball has certainly not been boring the past few years.

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Franklin County started a slow-pitch program eight years ago under Beesley and moved to fast pitch four years ago.

The Lady Bulldogs play slow pitch in the fall and fast-pitch in the spring.

&uot;It’s two entirely different games,&uot; said Beesley, who is no kin to Cathedral coach Ken Beesley. &uot;I love both of them. Some of the girls don’t like the slow pitch, and some don’t like the fast pitch. I think there’s a future in both of them. Some girls who are good at slow pitch cannot quite make the grade in fast pitch.&uot;

The present certainly looks good for the Lady Bulldogs, who are now competing in the Class 3A/2A/1A state championship.

Franklin County meets Pass Christian Monday at 4 p.m. at Pass Christian High.

Joining Franklin County and Newton from the south will be Our Lady of Resurrection and Pass Christian.

Franklin County High finished second in Region 3 Class 1A-2A-3A Softball Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs lost to Newton 9-5 in the title game, which was played in Meadville.

In the championship bracket, Franklin County jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Newton County only to lose 4-3 in nine innings.

That was followed by a 12-0 win over Morton to reach the finals against Newton.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of talented girls,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;They just about do it themselves, it’s nothing on my part. Some of them truly love it. They’d rather play softball than eat.&uot;

Actually, Beesley does not do it on his own as Leigh Ann Mason is his assistant.

Mason was a pitcher on Adams County Christian School’s state championship team.

&uot;She’s really great,&uot;&160;Beesley said. &uot;I think she instills that something in them that makes them strive to be a winner.&uot;

Of course, in fast-pitch softball a team is as good as its pitcher. And McGehee fits the mold.

&uot;The pitcher and catcher are very important,&uot;&160;Beesley said.

Freshman Kristen Lovett is the catcher.

&uot;She does a super job,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;It’s really hard, but she does a good job of blocking the ball and she has a super arm.&uot;

McGehee, a junior, has been pitching for several year, competing in a summer program. Her fastball is just over 50 miles per hour.

&uot;I don’t think her speed has improved, but her control is much better,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;If she wants to throw it low and inside, 95 percent of the time it will go there. She has a pretty good change, but she doesn’t throw it too much.&uot;

Franklin County finished as a runner-up to Newton in South State last year.

&uot;Experience-wise we are a lot better,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;We don’t make as many errors.&uot;

Beesley said the key now is to stay focused.

&uot;It’s a lot like life, you set your goal and that’s what you think about,&uot; Beesley said.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at