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A young, enthusiastic team and a new venue may give Coach Walter McHargue all he needs to bring the Lady Raiders fast-pitch softball team back to “powerhouse” levels.
McHargue said the varsity softball team this year will be using the softball field at Trimble County Park for practice and for games. This leaves the softball field at Trimble County Middle School available for the freshman and middle school teams.
“We’ve always had to short-change the freshmen teams,” who could only practice on the TCMS field when it was not being used by the junior varsity and varsity teams for games or their own practices.
The TCMS field was built when that school was built as the county’s high school. There is no softball field at Trimble County High School, located on the north end of Bedford, he said.
A big advantage to using the park’s field is lighting. McHargue said junior varsity now will be able to play first, followed by varsity. JV games were played after varsity, and sometimes were called if not finished before dark.
McHargue said eight players from the 2009 team are returning this year. And with only one senior on the team, pitcher Hannah Hudson, it’s a young team with five juniors, eight sophomores and two freshmen in the lineup.
With a bit more experience under their belts, McHargue and assistant coach Tonya Black are confident the Lady Raiders will be serious contenders again this year.
Last year was the team’s second losing season in the program’s 15 years, McHargue said.
“That’s not going to happen this year,” Black vowed.
“We spent last year teaching and being patient, and we made sure they knew what they had to do to get better,” McHargue said. “We’re gonna get better this year and next. ... We always have been a powerhouse, and our goal is to get back there again. If not this year, then next year. Because we’re not very good losers.”
The starting lineup this year has Jessie Center as catcher; Hannah Davis, first base; McKenzie Dunlap, second; Regan Black, short stop; Emily Sands, third; and Jana Dunlap, left field.
McHargue said centerfield, at this point, is a competition between Danyal Adams and Chelsea Sparks. Right field probably will be manned by Sara Kuner, who was left-fielder last year, he said.
The coach said he also is counting on junior Niki Brierly, who is a good utility player.
Black will backup Hudson on the mound, and McHargue said he has some other good pitching prospects, including one freshman.
On Monday, the coaches were hard at work getting the girls caught up with practice.
“We’re about two weeks behind,” McHargue said. February’s snowstorms set the team back, he said, and he also was very ill for several weeks, battling a sinus infection that progressed into bronchitis and pneumonia.
But, the coach is not concerned. “So far, I’ve been really pleased with their attitude and work habits,” he said of his players. “They’ve shown a lot of desire to improve, and they are a close-knit group. To me, that’s a major plus. They’re a good group of kids to work with.”
The Lady Raiders open their season with a home game against Williamstown on Tuesday, March 23. The JV game starts at 5:30, followed by the varsity at 7 p.m. at Trimble County Park.