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2010 All-Metro Softball: Cathedral player, coach earn top honors

NATCHEZ — Sometimes statistics don’t always show who the best players and coaches are.

Sometimes it’s more about leadership and a will to win that separate the best from the rest.

And it is those qualities more than anything else that are the reason Cathedral centerfielder Betsy Daggett and coach Gary Blackwell are the All-Metro Softball Player and Coach of the Year.

Blackwell, in his second year coaching the Lady Wave, led the team to its first district championship and the second round of the state playoffs, where they lost to eventual state champion Bogue Chitto.

And Daggett was the main sparkplug of the team. The senior leadoff hitter batted .333 with 23 RBIs and was a perfect 31 for 31 in stolen bases.

“If she got on with nobody out, we were going to have a run in, because she was going to come around to score,” Blackwell said. “She was in the top five in the state in stolen bases.”

But it was her leadership of an extremely young team that made just as big a difference.

“Betsy wasn’t really a vocal leader, but she led by example and with her hustle,” Blackwell said. “You watch her play and you try to step up to where she is. That’s leadership right now.”

Daggett also would take time to work with the younger players, Blackwell said.

“(Freshman outfielder) Mackenzie Watts said she learned so much from Betsy. Betsy was out here helping her times that I never even knew about.”

Daggett said even though she is a senior on a team full of eighth-graders, freshmen and sophomores, she feels a closeness with her teammates, which helped make for a successful year.

“I’m really close to all of them,” Daggett said. “We’ve helped each other and made each other better.”

And as someone who has been with the Cathedral softball program since seventh grade, Daggett knows what her young teammates need.

“You have to be positive to the young ones,” Daggett said. “The team is very young, and I try to give them positive reinforcement and help them keep going until we’re where we want to be. I’m here to encourage them and teach them lessons about life and sports.”

Daggett has seen the building of the Cathedral softball program firsthand, from the team’s struggles early in her career to its success her junior and senior seasons.

“You get to a point where you think you’re never going to win anything,” Daggett said of the struggles. “But some new girls came in, and we just seemed to mesh together real well and become a good team.”

And one of the keys to Cathedral’s turnaround is Blackwell.

The second-year coach led the team to the playoffs last year, and did one better this season, winning District 7-1A and advancing to the second round of the playoffs with a 19-10 overall record.

Daggett said Blackwell has the perfect temperament for dealing with the youthful team.

“He’s always very personable and upbeat,” Daggett said. “If ever any of us are feeling sad, he’d be like ‘You better smile.’”

Blackwell said keeping the team loose and focused is his main job because the coaching part comes easy thanks to the players’ talent.

“My biggest job is keeping them from being too down on themselves because they are so competitive.” Blackwell said. “You’ve got to have fun out here. Relax, have fun and the rest will come.”

Blackwell said he knew what kind of team he was going to have last season.

“I could tell this was a special group,” Blackwell said. “It’s a real pleasure coaching them because of their love and passion for the game. Their determination is overwhelming.”

And with the bulk of the team coming back next season, Blackwell expects even more success.

“When you have success, other athletes who should have been out here playing will come out and be a part of the tradition we started,” Blackwell said.

And Daggett, who is as much a part of building the tradition as anyone, is a little sad she can’t continue patrolling the outfield for the Lady Wave.

“This team is really going to do some great things in the future,” Daggett said. “I just wish I could be a part of it.”

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