Fast pitch now sign of the times

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Four players off the fast-pitch softball Ferriday Gators will play college ball next season. Another turned down an offer to do so.

At least two more will play college ball somewhere once they finish up high school.

The secret?

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Good athletes mixed with good coaching by Gators head coach Rut Horne and area prep coaches, resulting in looks from colleges in search of talent in the growing world of fast-pitch softball.

Miranda Doughty of Vidalia is headed to Louisiana-Monroe, and Krystyn Lovett of Franklin County and Lauren Wagoner of Ferriday are headed to Southwest Mississippi Community. Heather Miller of Vidalia has an offer from Jones Community College, and Tiffany Ferguson of Ferriday declined an offer from Gulf Coast Community College.

&uot;They’re all good ball players,&uot; said Horne, who works with high school teams in Concordia Parish and Natchez. &uot;They get good recommendations all the way down the line. Anybody who sees them likes them. They’ve been with this program since they were 12 or 13 years old.&uot;

That’s about when fast-pitch softball really started to take off in the area, and players continue to reap the benefits. All those players starred for their respective high school teams, and for the second straight year a team won a state title (Huntington fall 2001, Vidalia 2003).

Now they’ve got college partially paid for.

Fast-pitch is catching on a bit on this side of the river as Natchez High fielded its first fast-pitch team this year and Cathedral is scheduled to field a team in spring 2004.

&uot;Anyone else who doesn’t field one will be left behind,&uot; Horne said. &uot;That’s where the scholarships are. With somebody just starting up, whenever somebody comes in to help the pitchers, they’re going to take their lumps. Pitching is probably a two- to three-year development stage before you can have a pitcher like (Gator hurlers) Erin Hedrick, Miranda Doughty to Christy Corley &045; and that’s if they work at it hard.&uot;

Others, however, don’t field fast-pitch teams. Horne said he tried to drum up support in Natchez for fast-pitch softball but was unsuccessful.

All four Natchez schools field slow-pitch teams, and the Natchez-Adams Girls’ Softball League offers no fast-pitch league. Those playing fast-pitch at Natchez and Cathedral next season will be behind others with summer programs.

&uot; I’ve talked to people over there about it, but they believe slow pitch is the way to go and every kid can play slow pitch,&uot; Horne said. &uot;We’ve got kids in our fast-pitch program who if you’d ask me if they’d ever hit the ball I would say no way. Guess what &045; they’re digging in there and hitting the ball. It’s not a game of all strikeouts.

&uot;I wish the light would turn on in Natchez to start a fast-pitch programm. Most of the schools in Mississippi are going to fast pitch. At one point they’ll give up on slow pitch.&uot;

Because they’ll all be working for a college scholarship.

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at