- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
The Halifax County Middle School softball team accomplished its ultimate goal last season of taking back the Southside Middle School Conference Tournament championship with a win at defending champion Powhatan. That victory, which avenged a win by the Indians over the Lions at Halifax the year before, gives his team a good dose of momentum as it seeks to defend its title this year.
“The win at Powhatan gives us a good deal of momentum for this year, and in particular because we had a lot of guys step up at the end of the championship game that weren’t necessarily starters during the season,” said Lions head coach Jody Nelson.
“We’re an older team this year with only five seventh graders, and we have a lot of experience coming back.”
Halifax County has the tools to accomplish its goals for 2010, noted Lions head coach Jody Nelson, who returns this year along with assistants Scott Adams and Regan Priest.
Nine players, all but one eighth-graders return, including eighth-graders Tristan Howerton, Eddie Chaney, Ryan Powell, Dustin Crews, Josh Irby, Michael Watts, Tyler Stephens and Justin Womack.
Seventh-grader Thomas Cole also returns for Halifax, which welcomes eighth-graders Andrew McCann, Will Harris, Nick Lewis and Adrian Moran, and seventh-graders Colby Grissom, Ethan Woltz, Drew Link and Tripp Bennett to the roster this season.
The Lions have looked good in the field and at the plate so far, with the bats looking especially strong for this early in the season, according to Nelson, who is also blessed with seven pitchers to work with.
“I’ve seen so far that hitting is ahead of schedule,” he noted. “Most times the bats lag behind pitching and defense early in the season, but right now the whole team is hitting top to bottom.
“Pitching-wise, we’re going to throw strikes, and we won’t necessarily overpower anybody but our defense will be solid enough to keep us in games.
“As long as the pitchers throw strikes and let the defense work behind them, we’ll score runs.”
Overall, hitting will be a strength as well as defense, and if numbers are any indication, the Lions will have plenty of pitching.
“The older guys have become accustomed to playing on a larger field and have learned how to get in the right positions defensively, for instance on cut-off plays,” explained Nelson.
“I think this is the hardest age for guys playing baseball because so much is being thrown at them, but the things they learn here establishes them at programs higher up in high school and beyond.
“If they can’t get a grip on the fundamentals they’ll be in trouble, but they’re doing a great job with that now.
“We’re behind on a few things, but they’ve been picking up on some other small things the coaches have been talking about.”
A key objective in tomorrow’s invitational tournament is getting a pitching rotation set.
“We have a good idea of who’s starting in the field, so we’ll use the tournament to see who can hit and pitch,” Nelson explained.
“We have about seven pitchers right now, but after this weekend we hope to have a smaller rotation.”
Players continue to compete with one another for playing time, and that’s a definite positive for the team as a whole, added Nelson.
“The guys continue to push each other and that’s the best thing I’ve seen because it keeps players sharp.
“When players lose that edge and get complacent they have a tendency to mess up, but right now they’re keeping each others’ feet to the fire.”
Early indications point to another solid year, but Nelson is cautiously optimistic.
“We’re facing some new teams in the tournament and it’ll be tough early on to see what type of team we’ll have, but we should have a better idea after a few ball games.”