Front Row (L-R): Autumn Shepherd, Jenna Horner, Alexis Henley, Diamond Dibble, Abby Cornett, Natalie Winters, Hannah Brooks, Tiffany price, Mackenzie Poe. Back (L-R): Hanna Fritts, Haley Cox, Faith Walsh, Sydni Potter, Cassidy Lakatos, Emmy Miller, Maddie Eddington, Sarah Rider, Autumn Lewis, Harley Potter. Photo by Joey Icenhour
By Tim Chambers
Second-year head softball coach Greg Reece got a baptism by fire after winning several conference championships as the middle school head softball coach in the Little Watauga Conference over a nine-year span before taking over the high school squad last year. His team limped to a 2-10 league finish, and he was 10-16 overall in his first season as the Lady Longhorns’ skipper, but that could change in 2020.
The Longhorns look good on paper, but games are not won on paper, and so far, the highly talented Lady Horns have not shown signs that they are among the elite. In doing so, they must learn to defeat the likes of Unicoi County, Elizabethton, Sullivan South and Sullivan East who each year is among the kingpins in the Watauga Conference.
The Lady Longhorns basketball team reached the regional tournament for the first time in 24 years, which is another factor in the softball team getting such a late start, which is something that Coach Reece doesn’t mind.
“The girls that played basketball are very good leaders, and we’re hoping they can carry over the same attitude and perseverance from the basketball court onto the softball field. Four of our nine varsity starters played basketball, but we didn’t get a lot of field time during their absence. I feel like we’re going into this season far better prepared than last year.”
Reece feels like the strength of his team could be the outfield and their speed. Reece said that four girls are fighting for playing time Haley Cox, Abby Cornett Cassidy Lakatos, and Jenna Horner will vie for the three starting positions.
“They are battling hard, and each of them has strong throwing arms,” added Reece.
Reece anticipates the starting lineup to be Natalie Winters (1b), Maddie Eddington (SS) third base will be a rotation between pitchers with senior Hannah Brooks and freshman Hannah Fritts expected to be there.
The second base will be either Faith Walsh or Alexis Hendley. Hendley could also see time as their catcher, although Emmy Miller, who played there last year, is now back from basketball and will hold down a spot in the starting lineup. Reece is hoping to spell Miller some from behind the plate who is also an excellent outfielder. Winters is an excellent receiver behind the plate and could be another option.Miller missed some games late in the year last season after getting bullied over at home.
“She was playing well when she went down, and we had to move some people around that hurt us some.”
Reece thinks his team can compete for the crown if they can do the following.
“I want us to win the games we should win and steal a few as the season goes on.” “The talent level from school to school is not that great. We can compete with anybody on our schedule and anybody can compete with us. It’s just getting out kids to realize that.”
Reece has a talented sophomore and freshman class and will touch on those players as the season progresses.
“We will talk about those younger players as the season plays on and as they produce. We have a great group of freshmen and sophomores on our roster.”
The Lady Longhorns will open up against Hampton at home on Monday (weather permitting). Game time is set for 5:00 pm.
JCHS Varsity Softball Schedule 2020
10 at Ashe County
12 at Sullivan East
17 at Happy Valley
19 UNICOI COUNTY
20 at Patrick Henry
24 at Elizabethton
26 SULLIVAN SOUTH
31 SULLIVAN CENTRAL
2 at Hampton
3-4 NFS Tournament at Unicoi
7 SULLIVAN EAST
9 HAPPY VALLEY
14 at Unicoi County
17 at Morristown East
21 at Sullivan South
22 JV Conference Tourney at Elizabethton
23 at Sullivan Central
24-25-26 Tiny Day Tourney at Greeneville
27 Make up Dates
30 DISTRICT 1-AA AT JOHNSON COUNTY