By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Pitching has been the Achilles’ heel of the Millington Lady Trojans in recent years.
The Lady Trojans have featured young arms trying to learn on the job taking on tough District 15-2A competition. Last year Head Coach Whitney Horton arrived to town known for hitting during her playing days.
Although Horton has put a focus on work at the plate, she has encouraged her developing pitchers Olivia Ballard and Kaylee Bone to develop an array of pitches to increase Millington’s chances of victory this upcoming season.
“Both have been working since summer of last year on getting better, throwing more strikes,” Horton noted. “As far as being more dominant on the mound. They have been weightlifting and conditioning, trying to get stronger. They are trying to be a part of that team that we need in order to succeed. They’re trying to be that part that was missing. Getting out and getting better is going to make us better as a team and competing with teams we couldn’t with last year.”
Last year teams like Covington, Ripley and Haywood gave the Lady Trojans issues in league play. Those squads took advantage of a Lady Trojans team still adjusting to the leadership of Horton.
“Coming into year two, you tend to know the girls a little bit more,” the second-year Coach noted. “You know their pros and cons, their strengths and weaknesses. I’m bringing back seven seniors this year, such a strong class I have coming back this year. They’ve put in a lot of time and hard work. A lot of improvement has happened over the past year. So I’m excited to see what year two is going to bring.
“First year coming in they didn’t know what to expect,” Horton continued. “Year two, I’ve got to know a lot of the girls. They’ve gotten to know me and what I do expect. They know I expect them to give me 110 percent each and every pitch, each and every at bat and to represent Millington High School as a whole on and off the field.”
Horton said the all around leadership starts with her seniors Marquisha Sanders, Angela Healy, Kasey Gallo, Jessie Strickland, Camilia Irizarry, Jessica Trice and Ashley Hernandez.
The student-athletes are among those in the Top 10, MCHS Hall of Fame and National Honor Society. The seven seniors will likely compose most the starting lineup this season.
Sanders, who will likely sign to play college softball, will have her speed utilized as a leadoff hitter and center fielder. Healy will join Sanders in the outfield as a left fielder. She will be one of the sticks counted on to drive in runs.
Strickland is relinquishing her pitching duties to concentrate on infield play and hitting as a way of contributing.
Irizarry will prove speed at the top of the lineup and peace of mind for Horton in the middle of the infield at shortstop. Hernandez will likely be right by Irizarry’s side at second base. She has improved her hitting over the offseason.
Trice has been a solid first baseman in recent years flashing a dependable glove. Trice will be near the middle of the lineup in the hitting order. And Gallo is Millington’s right fielder and has been another Lady Trojan putting in work in the batting cage.
A sophomore will join that crew in the everyday lineup with catcher Hannah Clifton.
“Hannah Clifton is one of a kind,” Horton said. “She’s one of those athletes you’re very lucky to get. In 10 years of coaching, you might get 2 or 3 of those ball players to come through. She’s has stepped into a starting role as a freshman last year to fill up some big shoes.”
Another underclassman joining the fold will be Paige Hall. Known around campus as an athlete who shined in volleyball, Horton said Hall will be a nice addition to the Lady Trojan lineup.
“None of my spots are guaranteed right now,” Coach acknowledged. “She’s pushing to come in there and be a starter. If she’s not starting in the infield, she will be hitting for me everyday. Her bat is something that for a kids to come in and this is basically her first year of playing fast-pitch softball, is a amazing. She can hit the ball. She’s just an athlete. Her speed on the base paths, she can run the bases really well.”
Horton said if the pitching comes to fruition and the improved hitting shows this season, Millington can push toward the top of the district standings.
“I’m looking for Covington, Haywood and Ripley to be up there in the top three,” she said. “I also think we’re in the mix of that also. If our bats show up and our pitching shows up, there is no telling what can happen when Millington comes to Ripley or Covington or even Haywood.
“We have a good chance this year,” Horton concluded. “I’m very proud of my girls and the work ethic they have put in this offseason.”