Ferriday tournament softball teams have all-star expectations

Published 12:29 am Monday, June 23, 2014

Ferriday Fear softball player Jania Burns releases a pitch during a scrimmage with the Ferriday Gators Thursday. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)

Ferriday Fear softball player Jania Burns releases a pitch during a scrimmage with the Ferriday Gators Thursday. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Though the Gators and Fear softball tournament teams share Ferriday in separate age groups, they couldn’t embody more contrasting styles.

The Ferriday Gators live up to its all-star billing, featuring All-Metro First and Second Team pitchers Paige Bryan and Taylor Rodgers. Gators head coach Rut Horne said most of his roster, which is comprised of mostly 17 and 18 year olds, is filled with All-District and All-Metro players. However, he only has two players from last year’s team that reached the World Series.

The Fear, on the other hand, have All-Metro and All-District players, except they understandably don’t have the same credentials as the Gators. You can attribute that to the Fear’s youth, composed of 13 through 15 year olds.

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Head coach Jeannie Beach and the Fear have something the Gators don’t have though, and that’s familiarity. The Fear have seven players returning, and not to mention, the team is comprised of 11 Delta Charter players, who Beach coached this past softball season.

“To have that nucleus of players that played together last summer, during school ball and again this summer is definitely an advantage,” Beach said.

Horne’s forced to look at it differently. In fact, he optimistically would take the best players from different schools in the area to manufacture a team.

“It’s an advantage for me to get them from so many different schools,” Horne said. “I’m getting what I consider the cream of the crop.”

Horne’s pitching rotation will consist of Laura Perilloux, who is one of Horne’s returning players from a team that won state and lost to Alexandria in the world series last year, Rodgers, Bryan and Emilee Howard of Jena.

“Pitching will be our strength this year,” Horne said. “The biggest difference will be team speed. Pitching is strong, hitting is great and speed isn’t as good as it was last year.”

It just so happens that team speed is the strength of Beach’s Fear.

However, Beach would argue the Fear’s greatest strength would be team unity, especially after gaining confidence by finishing second in district, placing third in their bracket at state in New Orleans and defeating district winner Winnsboro in the tournament.

“We got down there in the first game and we looked like the Bad News Bears,” Beach said. “We couldn’t catch or hit in that game, but after settling in, they got more relaxed and comfortable. When we saw the competition, we were like, ‘man, we’re right there with them.’”

With an opportunity to play for state in Pineville on July 12, the Fear will travel to Delhi June 28 and compete to become one of the top two teams earning that state championship bid.

On that same day, the Gators will be playing in Delhi for a chance to earn a state championship bid in New Orleans.

The Fear and Gators’ approach to tournament ball have generated past success, and whether it’s a fresh all-star cast or tight nucleus of players, each team will have an opportunity to make an immediate splash in their upcoming tournaments.