Ferriday Gators quintet leads team to state

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2001

There have been some impressive pitching staffs and catchers who have handled them in recent years that will always be remembered. The Atlanta Braves pitching staff of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mark Wholers and catcher Javier Lopez won the 1995 World Series. The 2000 New York Yankees staff of David Cone, Andy Pettitte, David Wells Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada helped the Yankees win an American League record 114 regular season games.

Though their names won’t appear in the record books beside those great players, the Ferriday Gators fastpitch softball team has its own group of players that may make history one day.

Pitchers Jenny Watson, Erin Hedrick, Miranda Doughty and Heather Miller joined with catcher Kristyn Lovett to form one of the most experienced and intimidating staffs this season on the fastpitch softball circuit in Louisiana. The fivesome led the Gators to a 21-6 mark and a berth in the championship game of the Dixie Debs state tournament, which is for players ages 16-18. And Ferriday fans will see plenty of the the girls in the coming years.

That’s because four of them are only 16-years-old. Hedrick is the youngest pitcher at 14. Watson, Doughty and Miller have played for the Gators for three years. Hedrick and Lovett joined the team this season.

&uot;We’ve paid our dues,&uot; said coach Rut Horne. &uot;They played up, and now it’s paying off.&uot;

Each of the players have their strengths, Horne said. Watson has nearly every pitch that a softball pitcher can have: a rise ball, a drop, a curve and a changeup. Doughty throws the best rise ball on the team. Hedrick has the best control, as she only yielded two walks all season. Miller, a shortstop, relieves when needed and throws a good fastball that can ride in on hitters or away from them.

&uot;Each one is worth a lot to you at different times,&uot; Horne said. &uot;They’re all close. They’re not far off (from each other).&uot; He added that most pitchers at this age don’t have the array of pitches that the Gators pitchers have.

Lovett, who plays for Franklin County High, is the key to the staff’s success though.

With a catcher like Lovett, &uot;You’re much more confident,&uot; said Hedrick. &uot;You fell better.&uot;

Hedrick, Watson and Doughty excelled this year because of a softball clinic they attended last year. The three received personal instruction from Courtney Blades, a Southern Miss hurler that was on the Golden Eagle squad that advanced to the College World Series in 2000.

From that session, the players learned one of the best things a pitcher could learn: mental toughness.

&uot;You’ve got to be mentally tough,&uot; said Watson. &uot;If you throw four balls in a row, you can’t get down.&uot;

Doughty said of the mental side of the game, &uot;That’s the hardest part to me. It’s 99 percent mental.&uot;

Hedrick and Lovett will play fall softball, which starts the second week of August. Hedrick attends Huntington and Lovett plays for Franklin County. Watson, Doughty and Miller play for Vidalia High.