Southern softball

Madison Southern softball coach Abby Stepp instructs junior Kayla Pigg during an indoor practice last week. The Lady Eagles' season starts on March 18 when they host South Laurel at 6 p.m.

Madison Southern Coach Gene Combs is looking to replace seven starters from last year’s Eagles team, which finished 18-13.

“We have two seniors (Austin Banks and Colton Owens) back and a whole host of juniors and probably about four sophomores who will see pretty good playing time this year,” Combs said.

Armed with a roster heavy with underclassmen, Combs is hopeful Banks, and Owens can provide the leadership needed this season.

“We always look to our upperclassmen for leadership,” he said. “We’ve got two pretty good seniors who have been around here for a while, and we’re hoping they can lead by example.”

Combs said the team has potential, especially in the area of pitching and defense, but because of wet weather, it has been difficult to evaluate what he has to work with.

“Everybody throws except for one guy,” Combs said. “We’ve got a lot of garden snakes, but I don’t know if we have any copperheads, so we’ll see.”

Mother Nature has limited time on the field for practice, but the Eagles have been put through the paces inside an indoor practice facility.

“We hit every day in this building,” Combs said. “We can get as many cuts as we want. Ground balls and fly balls are an issue until we can get outside.”

The goal, offensively, is to excel is situational hitting, Combs said.

“We try to maximize contact and put balls into play,” he continued. “We don’t have any big boppers, so to speak, who can drive one out whenever they want to.”

The season begins March 18 on the road at Danville. Given the weather, Combs said the early season would probably be the first time his team is on the field for an extended period, which is the norm.

“You never want to get to a quick start, and the good thing about Kentucky as far as baseball is concerned, you usually don’t,” he said. This year won’t be any different. In all probability, our first day (on the field) will be our first game. We’ve been out in phases, but not yet been out to have full practices because it’s been too wet.”

Madison Southern’s first home game is March 21 versus Knox Central at 5:30 p.m.

Lady Eagles set to defend 44th District title

Focusing on finishing is the mantra of the Madison Southern Lady Eagles has the team prepares for the 2019 season and defense their 44th District title.

Last year, the Lady Eagles lost five one-run games, and Coach Abby Stepp said the ingredients are present to reverse that trend and improve upon 2018’s 12-16 record. Despite the below .500 record, Southern went 9-5 versus 11th Region and district foes, including knocking off Berea in the district title game.

The key, Stepp said, will be blending the young talent with the battle-tested upperclassmen.

“We have (seniors) Zaria Carter and Alicia Venter (and) I’m expecting a lot out of them,” Stepp said.

Also returning is junior Kayla Pigg, Stepp said.

“She was injured toward the end of the year, and she’s a big threat for us as far as pitching and hitting,” the second-year coach said. “We also have a lot of young kids. Kennadi Story and Payton Griffith will be huge factors for us at the plate and in the field.”

Stepp feels the off-season work will pay dividends once the season begins.

“We’ve been going since September with practice and conditioning,” she said. “These girls have worked hard from Labor Day until now.”

Offensively, Stepp said solid fundamentals would go a long way toward success.

“We want to be a tough out,” she said. “We want to maximize every at-bat and work hard on the mental part of the game.”

The Lady Eagles are sound defensively, Stepp said.

“We’re still going to figure out who is going to go where, depending on who is pitching,” she said. “We have pretty good chemistry. Many of these girls played together over the summer, so defensively, we’re fairly sound.”

The goals are lofty, but Stepp feels with the hard work the team has put in, they are achievable.

“Winning the district and winning the region tournament,” she said. “If we are going to peak at any point, I would rather for us to peak toward the end of the season when district and region tournament time rolls around. Everything we do from September until May is to prepare for the postseason.”

Madison Southern’s softball season begins at home Monday, March 18, against South Laurel at 6 p.m.

Pirate tennis fielding a young squad

Youth will be served on the tennis courts as the Berea Pirates will field a young squad in 2019.

“We honestly have a very young team, as 95 percent of our team is made up with younger athletes, a large chunk of them being 7th and 8th graders,” Coach Lori Singleton said. “We do have upperclassmen in high school, and I am counting on them to set the example for these younger players.”

Youth means the opportunity is ripe for training them the correct way, Singleton said.

“We have had the opportunity to be involved in a few clinics through the MTC tennis program at Eastern Kentucky University’s indoor tennis facility,” she said. “I believe that helped bring our beginners out of their shells and our experienced players’ excitement for the season.”

With such a young squad, Singleton was hesitant in singling out leadership roles.

“I can’t say I am looking to any particular player for leadership this season,” she said. “I don’t plan on assigning a team captain title, I believe the team itself has to work together as a unit, and each be just as responsible as the person next to them. I want them to realize how dynamic tennis is, how it is a sport where you rely fully on yourself in singles and both on yourself and your partner during doubles. I hope that by the end of the season they feel confident in their abilities.”

The goals for 2019 are simple, Singleton said.

“My goals for the season is to quickly adjust these players into the mindset that tennis requires to be successful,” she said. “They have to be serious about the sport itself, serious enough to give it their all every time they’re on the court. I also want them to enjoy themselves and learn over time that tennis is a sport you play for life.”

Berea’s first match was Tuesday, March 12, at LaFayette. Results of the match were not available by press time. Its first home match is scheduled for Monday, March 25, at 5:30 p.m.

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