Lady Hounds set to repeat last year’s performance – and go a bit further

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2001

The Huntington High fast pitch softball team is coming off a Mississippi Private School Association 1A state title and a third place finish in the overall state championship. Coach Michael McAnally and his Lady Hounds are expecting more of the same this year – and a little more.

&uot;I think we’re as good as anybody in MPSA in the state in any class,&uot; said McAnally. &uot;They (the players) got a lot of confidence coming off the success of last year.&uot;

After capturing the 1A title, the Lady Hounds advance to the overall state championship, where it defeated 4A powerhouse Jackon Prep in the second round before losing to Prep in the semifinals. As a result of the team’s play, The Clarion-Ledger ranked Huntington No. 3 in its final fast pitch poll. McAnally called the Jackson Prep victory &uot;a huge confidence boost&uot; and one that should motivate the Lady Hounds this year.

Experience will be on Huntington’s side. The Lady Hounds return eight starters from last year’s team and lose only one senior.

McAnally said that pitching and defense will be the strengths of the club. Freshman Erin Hedrick will probably be the No. 1 starter. Junior Emily Hazlip, usually a first baseman, will take the ball for a few starts. Jesse Moak and Candi Bennett also should contribute. McAnally said he could get by with three solid pitchers, but it always helps to have depth.

&uot;I feel comfortable with three pitchers,&uot; McAnally said. &uot;If all four throw well, great.&uot;

McAnally said his one worry is hitting. Last year, Huntington batted .264 as a team. &uot;I told the team, ‘We’re capable of hitting better than that.’&uot;

But if the batting doesn’t pick up, Huntington will resort to small ball – sacrifice bunts, hit and runs and hitting behind the runner to manufacture runs. &uot;We need to swing the bat consistently,&uot; McAnally said. &uot;Cut down on our strikeouts and put the ball in play.&uot;

Huntington will play a tough schedule, with games three games a piece versus Amite and Franklin Academy, two solid 1A teams in the Lady Hounds’ district. Also, the team will play in two tournaments – at Hillcrest and at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. The season and home-opener is Aug. 16 versus Franklin at 5 p.m.