Lady Hounds in rebuilding phase at MPSA softball begins next week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

FERRIDAY, La. &045; In seasons past Whitney Bradford played the middle infield for some solid Huntington softball teams, contributed at the plate when called on and looked up to the older players on the team when things got tight.

Those days, however, are gone.

Bradford is one of two seniors on the Lady Hounds’ fast-pitch softball squad this fall as it enters its first season without a core of players &045; Tiffany Ferguson, Lauren Wagoner and Emily Hazlip &045; that helped move the program along from its inception.

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And not only that &045; Bradford will play catcher, too.

&uot;It’s totally different,&uot; said Bradford, a member of the 2001 Class A state and 2002 South State championship teams. &uot;It’s different being in the position I’m in. We’ve got a lot of young people on the team. I’m trying to show them what I know, which isn’t much. I’ve played catcher in JV games or when Tiffany got tired. I’ve had a little bit of experience but not much. It’s going to be a challenge.&uot;

The Lady Hounds will be a significantly different team from a year ago, save the presence of Erin Hedrick on the mound. Brandon Gousset enters his first season as head coach following the departure of Michael McAnally, and Gousset also enters his first season as coach of fast-pitch softball as fast-pitch softball begins in the Miss-Lou.

But Gousset &045; like McAnally, a baseball guy &045; has Rut Horne and Rick Brown helping out as the team prepares for the season opener Tuesday against Pine Hills in Gloster.

&uot;They’re young but experienced,&uot; Gousset said. &uot;They’re just finishing summer league ball because the MPSA season is in the fall. They had two weeks off, and then we started. Last year they played right up until the start of school.

&uot;But the main difference (from baseball) is the bases being closer and how the first and third basemen like to play closer instead of back. I think bunting comes into play more than baseball does. And with our speed, there’s going to be a lot of that.&uot;

The biggest area of experience for the team will be on the mound in right-hander Erin Hedrick, who was

one of the top three pitchers on the summer league Ferriday Gators over the past two seasons.

Hedrick was the Lady Hounds’ top pitcher a year ago, and since the break she’s working on being that stopper on the mound again. After an impressive season last fall (17-10, 2 saves, 1.49 ERA, 96 Ks, 26 BBs), the Lady Hounds will always have a chance when she’s on the mound.

&uot;Throwing every day has really made a big difference,&uot; Hedrick said. &uot;I’ve been throwing every day the last week, and I feel a lot better. Starting Monday I really surprised myself with (the riseball). I came here and Mr. Rut said, ‘You’re throwing all of them exactly right.’ My changeup, I’m working on it still. I’m trying to control it.&uot;

Hedrick, a first-team All-Metro selection last year, is working on her assortment of pitches with Horne each day. The Lady Hounds will rely on her mostly for pitching duties, while Jessie Lee may throw some after taking the mound later in the year last fall as a freshman and seventh-grader Julie Moak may throw some.

&uot;She (Hedrick) is a good pitcher, and she’s a good hitter, too,&uot; Gousset said. &uot;She’s probably one of our top hitters. But she’s got a bunch of different pitches. She throws hard, and she really has good control. She’s going to have a lot of ground balls hit off her. Erin will get the majority (of work) except for tournaments. In tournaments they’ll all go.&uot;

But in order to keep Hedrick from having to throw a shutout to win, the Lady Hounds will have to deliver at the plate. The three who graduated last year formed the bulk of the lineup at the 3, 4 and 5 holes with Bradford and Hedrick at the top.

Gousset noted the team’s hitting has made significant strides since last week hitting off the machine, and that may not be a weakness as anticipated before the start of the season.

&uot;Hitting the ball and making those routine plays,&uot; Bradford said. &uot;But defensively, we’ve got a pretty good infield. Our hitting has been pretty good and pretty solid. I definitely think we’re going to surprise some people. I think we surprised ourselves the first day of practice. I was surprised.&uot;

A rebuilding year maybe, but no one is going to use it as an excuse once the season begins.

&uot;We came out here last week, and I was really surprised,&uot; said Hedrick, a junior. &uot;We’re hitting the ball well in practice. We lost the heart of our team when we lost them. This is going to be a rebuilding year. You have to rebuild some time. I hope we do surprise a lot of people, and I think we will.&uot;

Centreville Academy

CENTREVILLE &045; The Lady Tigers still have the numbers, but the core starters from state championships the last two fall seasons have graduated. The team has 29 girls out for softball, including big first baseman Jenae Jackson, but have to fill four starting positions, including pitcher and catcher.

&uot;We’ve got a pretty good group,&uot; CA head coach Kenny Jackson said. &uot;We’ve got about four seniors, and that’s all we’ve got. We’re pretty young. We’ve got a lot of eighth-graders and ninth-graders and the same amount of 10th-graders and 11th-graders.&uot;

Catcher Jenny Watts graduated, and Kendall Madsen will step in as the team’s top pitcher this fall. But others, however, may press for time on the mound as the Lady Tigers are still searching for the right chemistry as to who plays best where.

&uot;She throws not as hard as what we had last year, but she throws hard and does pretty well with her change of speed,&uot; Kenny Jackson said. &uot;We’ve got some good contact hitters, and I believe we’ll have a pretty good defense. We’ve got good pieces, but you don’t really know. You’ve got to put all the pieces together. They’re talking about (winning state) again and trying to win a third. We’ve got high goals.&uot;