Senior group to key Lady Vikings on diamond as softball cranks up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; From coaches to athletes to rock stars every big act has its farewell tour.

But like it or not, the 2003 softball season will be the swan song for a Vidalia High musketeer bunch that has gripped aluminum bats and pounded fists into leather gloves together since their T-ball days.

These four &045; catcher Jaci Deweese, pitchers Jenny Watson and Miranda Doughty and shortstop Heather Miller &045; led the Lady Vikings to a 25-6 record a season ago and their second playoff appearance in three years.

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&uot;Very seldom do you have a group that comes all the way up. And to be as good of athletes as they are is highly unusual,&uot; Vidalia head coach Gary Parnham said. &uot;They’ve been the heart and soul of this team for four years, and we’ll miss them when they’re gone.&uot;

While the four veterans are aware that their high school days and their time together is fading quicker than a Watson fastball, each is chomping at the bit to get the Lady Vikings over the early round playoff hump.

In each of the years Vidalia has made the playoffs since the four seniors have worn the blue and red, the Lady Vikes have won the district 3-2A crown.

But in those same years Vidalia has failed to get past the second round of the playoffs, most recently a 1-0 loss to Sacred Heart-Ville Platte last season.

&uot;This year we have the talent to go somewhere,&uot; said catcher Deweese, who was named to the Louisiana Coaches Association All-State team last season. &uot;It’s there, but we have to be all the way into it for every game thinking that we’re going to win.&uot;

Parnham has seemingly done his part this season by stacking the schedule with teams that have gone deep in the playoffs either last year or in recent seasons.

That frightening schedule begins in Jena, La., Thursday against a team that beat the Lady Vikes thrice last year.

It continues with rival Block, Class A state runner-up Mangham and a tournament at the end of February in Lafayette where Vidalia plays two Class 4A teams, a Class 5A squad and a Class 3A club.

&uot;We might not have more talent than some teams, but I can tell all our hearts are into it. We want a state title this year,&uot; said Watson, a Louisiana Sports Writer Association All-State member. &uot;Everyone is trying hard even though we all might not be able to do the same things equally. Everyone has to pull on the same rope.&uot;

And that’s a page where several of the veterans feel the team has not matured to yet.

When you have four upperclassmen, who have accomplished so much as one unit, leading the team, it is certainly normal if a newcomer to be anxious about disrupting the flow.

&uot;Right now we are not as jelled as a team like we were last year, which is disappointing,&uot; Miller said. &uot;But with practices and game playing we’ll grow together and do OK.&uot;

&uot;I know as a freshman I felt some intimidation joining a team that had a close group of seniors on it,&uot; Watson added. &uot;But as soon as I practiced, they accepted me. I hope we can do that for the rest of our team.&uot;

It’s a facet of the game that might not seem as fundamental as playing pepper or tossing a ball to warm up, but Parnham expects it from this veteran gang.

The Lady Vikings have struggled at the plate during intrasquad scrimmages this season, but have three solid starters on the mound with Watson and Doughty as Vidalia’s No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

&uot;I’ve got confidence that if I put any one of (the pitchers) out there we can win on a daily basis,&uot; Parnham said. &uot;I go home each day and smile about that.&uot;

Even though the first pitch has not been fired in the softball season, the four seniors catch themselves getting sentimental about what they’ve shared together, especially as Vikings.

Like the time last year when Parnham got thrown out of a game against Tioga High School, yet the girls brought the Lady Vikings back to win one for their coach.

&uot;I’m looking forward to going to state this year,&uot; Doughty said. &uot;It’s weird knowing that we’re not going to play together again. I can’t believe this is our last year of high school ball.&uot;

Now their coach wants to give something back to them.

&uot;Once you’ve been to the state tournament there’s always that feeling of wanting to get back there,&uot; Parnham said. &uot;I’d love for these seniors to experience something like a state title. It’s been a joy working with this group of kids.&uot;