The Cannon Courier
One game shy of reaching the District 8-AA championship game and a automatic bid to the Region 4-AA tournament, the Cannon County Lionettes softball team are ready to hit the field once again.
The team has a new coaching staff, and will be anchored by four returning players that will have to produce offensively in order for the Lionettes to build on last year's 14-8 record.
Coach Brittany Cook makes her debut as the head coach for the Lionettes. This is Coach Cook's first ever coaching job. She followed the game extensively in her high school days at Shelbyville High School taking care of the scorebooks for the Golden Eagles and Eaglettes baseball and softball program.
"I am learning and the girls have been great teaching me technical terms," said Coach Cook. "I know the basics, the rules. I can tell you who is going to be good at what position but I couldn't teach them how to bat or throw if I had to."
The Lionettes will be relying on assistant Coach Wade McMackins for batting and pitching skills help. He has been working with the Lionettes since the opening of practice with timing, stance in the batters box, and most importantly helping the Lionettes with pitching skills as they will have to find someone to step in for Kristen Hale who was basically the Lionettes go to arm for four years.
The infield is anchored by senior Livia Walker, the soccer standout will be playing first base and Walker is in the pitching rotation. Walker could also see some time at third base in the infield.
Sophmore Shianne Ashford will back up Walker at first. Ashford is new at first base at the high school level and has played well in the scrimmages so far this season. Kelsie Smith will return to second base and junior Kallie McCrary. Third base is still anybody's position. Junior LauraBeth Nichols has the inside track but Nichols is also in the pitching rotation, so the team could turn to freshman Anna Brandon for some help at third base.
The catcher is Shelby Earls. The sophomore came on big last year after then senior Cheyenne Fann was lost for the season with a leg injury. Earls was a key producer offensively for the Lionettes.
The outfield has several candidates. Bailey Sims returns and will be most likely the starting centerfielder on opening day. She will be joined by Joie McCrary in right field and Allie St John in leftfield.
With McCrary being in the pitching rotation, look for Baily Knox to get a lot of playing time when McCrary is on the mound.
The Lionettes strength has always been defense. The biggest question coming into the season is pitching. Instead of having one ace pitcher like they relied on in years past, the Lionettes will look to four players to pitch in a game rotation. Joie McCrary did see some limited action last season on the mound. Laura Beth Nichols, and Livia Walker also has some pitching experience. Freshman Anna Brandon is also in the rotation.
Coach Cook will rotate pitchers in each game and hopes to get at least three good innings out of each pitcher for the first half of the season as they gain game experience and build arm strength.
The coaching position was not filled until late into the school year and as a result the schedule is kind of weak this year as far as non district games are concerned.
There are only 17 games scheduled outside of a tournament in Gordonsville.
Franklin County Lady Rebels start the season March 14th. Then it's on to district play. After the Gordonsville hosted tournament the Lionettes will play 13 straight district games before closing out the regular season May 2nd with Franklin County. There is a possibility that more games could be added but with the season close to starting it's hard to schedule additional games. Boyd Christian may be added to the schedule as both coaches are looking at potential dates.
Dekalb County looks to be the front runner of District 8-AA. The Lady Tigers are coming off a state tournament appearance from last season. Macon County is also expected to have a good softball team. The team from Lafayette finished second in the District last year and got to the sectional round.
Most of the teams in District 8-AA are young and many of them have first year coaches. Look for Livingston to return to success and possibly Upperman as well.
The Lionettes have the ability to build on last year's 14-8 record.
With a good stellar defense, the Lionettes pitching staff becomes the important piece to keeping opponents run opportunities to a minimum.
Offensively, Walker and Earls will be counted on to produce a majority of the runs with their bats this year. Sims, Smith, St. John and Knox are a few of the Lionettes that bring speed to the basepaths and can provide a challenge to opponents trying to keep them contained.