Front row, L-R: Hannah Fletcher, Shawna Arnold, Lexie Proffitt, Emily Walker, Ashlynn Beam, Brayden Eastridge, and Maddie Jones. Back row, L-R: Harley Potter, Lauren Bishop, Aden Thomas, Eden Potter, Kendle Watson, Kenzie Poe.

FrFront row, L-R: Autumn Shepherd, Brayden Eastridge, Maddie Jones, Eden Potter, McKenzie Poe, and Audrey Savery. Back row L-R: Isabelle Katsaitis (Water girl), Kendyle Kleine, Zenna Bouchelle, Amy Gunter, Aubrey Baird, Hanah Fritts and Hannah Lewis, Chloe Gladden (Water girl). Photos by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

Johnson County Middle School has a new head coach for the first time in nine years but doesn’t expect the program to fall off any. Haley Miller takes over for Greg Reece who is now
the head coach at the high school.
Miller is no stranger to the sport having served as an assistant coach under Reece for the past four seasons before accepting her current role.
She takes over a team that is loaded with some good talent that should feature two of the top middle school players in this area in Hannah Fritts and Autumn Lewis.
Miller was all smiles when talking about them.
“Lewis and Fritts are our number one pitchers,” said Miller. “They make up a pitching staff that should be one of the best in our area. Both are trustworthy on the mound and good leaders. They’ll also be our two best hitters, and each can hit the ball long and drive in runs.”
Fritts proved that by hitting two home runs and a double off the fence in last year’s championship game win over Unaka. She homered at tryouts and Lewis can also hit the tater patch with some line drive bombs. She’ll bat in the cleanup spot.
Autumn Shepherd, Maddie Jones, and Audrey Savery are a trio of players that are good hitters and will be the table sitters for Fritts and Lewis.
Zenna Bouchelle. Kendyl Kline, Brayden Eastridge, Eden Potter, and Aubrie
Baird are other players that have impressed Miller.
They all have a chance to see lots of playing time and contribute.
Miller added that Fritts can display the leather at shortstop and has a strong arm that will be handy in getting some much-needed outs. She and Lewis both can put a spin on the ball that makes it hard for the opposing teams to hit.
“All these kids can play,” said Miller. Shepherd has a strong swing that will be helpful, and Jones is very versatile. She can play anywhere we put her and play it well. Savery has a lot of speed in the outfield and has a knack for getting to the ball quickly.”
Miller and her staff are working hard with the remainder of their lineup. She hopes to implement some small ball down in the bottom half.
“We have several kids that play travel ball during the summer, and that helps. I feel good about our pitching and defense, but we have to hit better in the bottom of our lineup.”
Miller and her assistant coach Mark Humphrey has been putting the finishing touches on before their season opener at home on March 12 versus Unaka.
“Our main focus has been on fielding, and we’re doing a lot of drills to help that. So far I see a lot of potential in our varsity team. Our batting speed is getting better, and they understand the fundamentals of the game. We still need to work on our mentality part and go up to the plate with confidence and a strong approach.”
Miller tabbed Unaka as their toughest challenge in league play with several others much improved.