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Spring Sports Previews: Lady Trojans face challenge of finding a hurler, offense still has solid pieces

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Casey Tarwater

Casey Tarwater

The Rick Hearn era for Millington Lady Trojan Softball has seen district titles, Regional appearances and a trip to the 2005 Sub-State round.

During those seasons, Hearn would approach the preseason with talented players like Heidi Molder, Jasmine Scudder, Brittaney Davis, Ashley Benbow, Melissa McGovern and Jenna Crain returning. Even players like Hearn’s daughters Lauren and Emily were All-State caliber players in the program. And in the pitching circle, Hearn knew veterans like Abby Mabry, Meagan Wingate and April Lewis knew how to navigate a varsity roster.

Entering this season the Lady Trojans have

half of the equation ready for 2013. In the field and in the batting order familiar names like Ariel Trice, Casey Tarwater, Rebecca Smart and Katlyn Dupree are back.

But with the graduation of Tori Davis and Lewis, Hearn faces an issue he hasn’t had to deal with in a decade — finding a pitcher.

“Right now it’s really uncertain,” he acknowledged. “I don’t have anybody who has pitched in high school. That’s our big question mark right now.

“We have young players who are learning how to pitch,” Hearn continued. “But we definitely haven’t been in this situation before other than our first year. That’s a weakness and this is definitely a rebuilding year.

A year to try to start something and develop some pitching. It’s going to have to be a real patient year on the coaching end of it to try to get better and improve as the year goes back.”

Smart is working this preseason on her delivery and taking on the responsibility of being Millington’s ace. Smart and the offense might be counted on early to produce several runs to pull out wins.

The top of the Lady Trojans’ lineup features veteran experience with senior Dupree and Tarwater with their slapping style.

“They should do a good job,” Hearn noted. “They’re left-handers and bunt real well. Then we have Rebecca Smart, Dija Bronson and Ariel Trice in the middle of the lineup that are capable hitters.

If they can make adjustments, shorten up their swings and put the bat on the ball, they will drive them in for us.”

Another crucial part to help a young pitcher is defense. With weather, Hearn is still evaluating the eight players who will defend for Smart and staff.

“We haven’t been able to get on the field a lot because of the rain,” he noted. “ I know Katlyn and Ariel have played a couple of years in infield positions. And Casey has caught the last two years So we’re pretty good up the middle.

“Rebecca is going to have to pitch a lot,” Hearn added. “So that takes her out of the outfield.

She’s one of our best outfielders. So we’re real unsure out there right now. We’re just going to have to play and get better.”

The Trojans will have to play at a high level to challenge teams like Bolton, Arlington and Bartlett in District 14-3A. Hearn said the Lady Panthers are a team to watch and he hopes his squad will be in the hunt with all those teams.

“Bartlett, they’ve got pitching,” he said. “And we split with them last year. They’re still going to be much improved.

“We’ll have our hands full this year,” Hearn concluded. “We’re playing to try to get better for April. That’s what our goal is to try to improve as the year goes by.”

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