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Unity leads Lady Wave into postseason

NATCHEZ — Cathedral senior Betsy Daggett knows firsthand how far the Lady Wave fast pitch softball team has come over the years.

As a member of the first Cathedral fast pitch team as a seventh grader, Daggett has experienced both the highs and the lows in the program’s young history.

“I remember when we first started, we were really bad,” Daggett said. “We would get beat 15-0, 20-0 and 30-0.”

But those days are long gone, and the hard work by Daggett and her teammates has paid off. The Lady Wave (17-8) sit as district 8-1A champions, and will head to Weir Friday for the first round of the playoffs. It’s the second year in a row for Cathedral to make the playoffs, and Daggett said she could see how far the program has come.

“Those teams that were killing us, now we’re beating them,” Daggett said.

Teammate Mollie Devening, a freshman, said she’s seen a lot of growth in just one year’s time.

“We’ve gotten a lot better compared to last year and have improved a whole lot,” Devening said.

“We’ve played more as a team this year, I think. We keep each other in line and don’t let each other get down. We’ve just maintained a positive attitude. We have two seventh graders playing in the infield and outfield, and they’ve really stepped up for us.”

And with young players being a key part of the Lady Wave’s team, Daggett said she’s helped encourage them as they adjust to playing on the varsity squad.

“The girl who plays the outfield, Mackenzie Watts, her mom came to me one day and was telling me how she said, ‘Betsy taught me this, Betsy taught me that,’” Daggett said.

“I think their attitude really helps them out on the field. They’re so young, and they’re open-minded, and they never have a bad attitude out there. I remember them telling us, they used to be scared of us, and I’m not really sure why. But, as young as they are, they’re good.”

And team unity is something Lady Wave coach Gary Blackwell has noticed as well, he said.

“I saw it last year, but even more so this year,” Blackwell said. “They’ve worked really hard, and have come together to the point where they really enjoy being around each other. They just have fun playing with each other, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Blackwell also said that one of his biggest advantages this season has been the fact that several of his girls have played summer league softball for a number of years.

“Several of them have been playing for coach Rut Horne for several years now,” Blackwell said. “Our pitchers have been with him since they were young, and he’s really done a good job with them for sure.”

Devening can attest to Horne’s work paying off for her, she said.

“He’s taught both myself and (fellow pitcher) Ginny (Daggett),” Devening said. “He’s helped us with pitching, and my sister Kimble with catching. We always go out to him every Sunday to work with him.”

Having a strong group of assistant coaches also takes a lot of the burden off of his shoulders, Blackwell said.

“I don’t do a lot with the pitching, since Charles Devening more or less takes care of that,” Blackwell said.

“Mark Fortenbery has been helping me for years, and Tommy Milligan has been helping me a lot. Penny Daggett also does a great job keeping up with the stats and helping us with uniforms. She’s been a great help through the years.”

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