By Thomas Sellers Jr.
How the Millington Lady Trojans progress in the month of March will determine how far they will go in May.
Millington veteran Skipper Rick Hearn is targeting April 1 at the date for his young team to take the next step. The Lady Trojans enter the 2015 TSSAA Softball season with inexperience players stepping into the pitching circle.
And after seniors Katie Dupree and Mollie Malito take their cuts at the plate, the experience drops in certain parts of the lineup for Millington.
“Hopefully we’ll be ready by April 1,” Hearn said. “Our pitching will be consistent. We have find someone who can throw strikes and get the ball into play. Our defense is our strength right now. We have to trust our defense.”
Millington graduated four key bats in Meghan Sands, Mia Prescott, Emily Stewart and Ariel Trice. A new quartet of seniors will step into the roles of on- and off-the field leaders with Dupree, Malito, Ashlee Bone and Kayla Cranford.
Malito’s speed will be used near the top of the lineup as a slapper and bunter. She is also slotted to play centerfield.
Like Malito is the leader of the outfield, Dupree will guide the infield from her shortstop position. She can bat either leadoff or second for Hearn this season.
Bone will see time behind the plate and bat in the middle of the Lady Trojans’ lineup. Cranford plays all over the field and can be a bat in the lineup hitting for a high average.
Cranford, Bone and freshman Ally Browning have seen some time at catcher this preseason working with incoming pitchers Jessie Strickland, Angela Healy and Olivia Ballard.
“Ally Hall decided to concentrate on volleyball,” Hearn noted. “That left us a little behind because she logged so many innings. So we have a few we’re working with.”
Hall was Millington’s leader in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts last season. Now a new Lady Trojan will take over those stats.
The defense will be the key behind whoever pitches for Millington. A key glove on the field will be sophomore Jess Trice. The sophomore was catching lasers from her sister last season. Now with Ariel playing college softball in Indiana, Jess moves up in the batting order. Hearn noted the younger Trice has a solid bat and will be taking her swings in the middle of the lineup.
Millington is scheduled to open the season March 9 with a doubleheader against the Kingsbury Lady Falcons at home.
“We have to identify our players,” Hearn concluded, “and settle our lineup. We have to find that consistent pitcher who can throw strikes and keep us in games.”