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After capturing back-to-back 44th District titles, the Madison Southern Lady Eagles have their sights set on a higher prize – the 11th Region Championship.

The Lady Eagles were a game away from realizing that goal in 2019 but fell to Woodford County in the 11th Region title game.

“I have high expectations coming into this year for our program,” Coach Abbey Stepp said. “I expect to win the region and go to state. Now that we’ve been there in those high-intensity games and atmosphere, we’re going to come back more prepared than we were last year.”

Southern lost two seniors from last year’s squad and returns five seniors and multiple juniors, so the needed experience is there.

“I have had discussions with our seniors about being good leaders and good role models for this program. I look for them to step up this year with their consistency and their play,” Stepp said.

On the mound, Stepp will look for the 1-2 punch of Kayla Pigg and Tessa Juett. Both players pitched well last season, and bring different guises to the game.

“Kayla is right-handed, and Tessa is left-handed, so they have different looks from the mound,” Stepp said. “Both of them throw hard, and they have good off-speed (pitches), as well.”

At the plate, Stepp expects Juett, Kayla Conrad, and Samantha Cornelison to provide key hits and quality at-bats for the squad.

“I have high expectations for those three,” she said. “I expect them to have consistency at the plate and in the field out of them. I expect them to lead in all offensive categories this year.”

Southern opens its season March 21 at Paul Laurence Dunbar at 3 p.m.

• Though entering his first year at the helm of the Berea Lady Pirates softball team, Coach David Alexander isn’t a stranger to many of the players. Having coached Berea’s middle school team for several years, Alexander is familiar with many of his players.

Last season, the Lady Pirates finished 10-11, and for Berea to get over the hump, Alexander said it would boil down to the basics.

“I want to see them progress and get better every time they get out on the field,” he explained. “I’m a coach that teaches fundamentals.”

A defensive-minded coach, Alexander said that is where much of the off-season work has been focused.

“I don’t care if you hit 27 homes runs, but if you can’t stop the other team from scoring, what good have you done?” he asked. “We will work on hitting, of course, and we have some good kids, natural hitters. But at the beginning, I work on defense and keeping kids focused on what their job is in whatever position they’re playing.”

Berea returns one senior, Malyah Penn, who will play first base.

“She has a good, powerful swing, and she listens and follows directions well,” Alexander said.

Berea opens its season March 16  at home against Danville at 6 p.m.

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