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For Lions Softball, It's Mission Accomplished

Coach James Smith and his Halifax County Middle School softball team faced a lot of unknowns entering the 2010 season. Nine members of last year’s undefeated tournament championship team are playing jayvee softball for the Comets this season, leaving Smith, assistant coach Bonnie Bowen and volunteer coach Regan Cannon with only one starter, Megan Puckett, and five other returning players, Sam Moser, Peyton Myers, Hannah Saunders, Taylor Strange and Beth Thomas.

Two eighth-graders, Lauren Albertson and Jasmine Lovelace made the team this year, in addition to seventh-graders Lauren Womack, Tara Brandon and Ashley Watts, and sixth-graders Taylor Barnes, Kirsten Doss and Cecilie Elliott.

Smith said this season was probably the most gratifying of any he’s had in 15 years at the middle school.

“It was gratifying considering we started the year with one returning starter.  We had a really young team, with a sixth-grade pitcher (Barnes), sixth-grade first baseman (Elliott), seventh-grade shortstop/second baseman (Womack), and two seventh-graders in the outfield, (Logan and Brandon).

“We were young and inexperienced, and I didn’t know what we had, but we improved during the year, especially defensively.

“We didn’t hit the ball as well as we would have liked, but we faced better pitching this year, especially the last three ball games.”
Considering its overall youth and tougher competition on both sides of the conference, this year’s team faced a big challenge in winning the tournament title.

Win it they did.  The Lions finished with a 14-1 record, including a 7-2 win over Lunenburg in the conference tournament semifinals and a 2-1 win over Park View in the championship game.

Smith had admitted before the season he didn’t have the overall offensive fire power he’d enjoyed in the past.

Instead, the Lions took advantage of solid pitching and defense, speed on the base paths, moving base runners via the bunt and the occasional long ball to give its departing eighth-graders two tournament titles in three appearances in the championship game.

Smith designated eighth-graders Lauren Albertson, Jasmine Lovelace, Sam Moser, Peyton Myers, Puckett, Hannah Saunders, Taylor Strange and Beth Thomas as team captains prior to the start of the season, and they provided the leadership he was looking for.

“For not having been a starter last year, Peyton Myers did a great job handling our sixth-grade pitcher (Barnes),” noted Smith.

“Puckett, Moser and Thomas really helped us at tournament time.  That loss to Park View really helped us get ready for them again, and if we had made the same errors again, we would have lost.

“Competition was really tough on both sides this year.  Lunenburg could have beaten anyone, and Park View had the best team I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Despite those challenges the Lady Lions own another tournament title.

“It’s been a great year for middle school softball,” Smith emphasized.