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Lady Longhorns optimistic about softball season

Front Row L-R: Autumn Shepherd, Sydni Potter, Cassidy Lakatos, Emmy Miller, Maddi Edington, Hailey Cox, Sarah Rider, Audrey Godines. Back Row L-R:  Mattie Jones, Lexi Proffitt, Lauryn Bishop, Hannah Fritts, Harley Wykle, Amy Gunter, Aden Thomas, Harley Potter, Madison Walker, Makenzie Poe, Eden Potter. Not pictured: Faith Walsh, Jenna Horner, Autumn Lewis. Photo by Joey Icenhour

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

The Lady Longhorns appeared on their way to their best season ever last year, sprinting to a 2-0 record with wins over Ashe County and Sullivan East. Then COVID 19 put a halt to the remainder of their season. Head Coach Greg Reece had what might have been the best class of senior athletes ever to wear the maroon and white as many of them were two and three-year starters.

But the cupboard is not bare this year, and for Reece, he’ll build his squad with four seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores, and five freshmen. This year Reece will be assisted by Josh Helvey, who helped out with basketball and football, and Erin Miller. That after last year’s assistant coaches Emily Harrison (now at T.A. Dugger) and Abigail Reece (now at Sullivan North) has departed.

“We have eight upperclassmen, but they missed out on an entire season’s experience. Thankfully, many of them played some travel ball during the summer and fall.”

It all starts with senior catcher Emmy Miller and shortstop Maddi Edington. Cassidy Lakatos is another senior who will play third, while Jenna Horner, who was a senior kicker on the football team, will play in the outfield. Reece will pencil in Sydni Potter, a junior at first base, Faith Walsh will handle the second base chores, and Sarah Rider, another junior, will play outfield and catch some. Pitching being handled by sophomores Hannah Fritts (lefty) and Autumn Lewis. Both will play other spots defensively. 

“We have several younger pitchers that will work toward contributing to varsity,” said Reece. The junior varsity will be made up of nine sophomores, and five freshmen who Reece said have lots of enthusiasm. 

“I really like this group, especially the young pitchers (Harley Potter, Lauryn Bishop, Harley Wykle and Mattie Jones). I think this group can be pretty good
offensively with some power throughout the lineup. We have pretty good speed and versatility here with several capable of switch-hitting or using the short game.”

“The game is changing, and the low-scoring one-run games are becoming a thing of the past,” added Reece. “You have to score runs and take some pressure off your defense and pitchers, and to do that; you need to be versatile.”

He said that the varsity’s weaknesses would be missing out on some valuable experience. 

“We missed out on getting some valuable experience. There are only three starters from the 2019 season, so missing out on 2020 was particularly hard on us. The starting lineup is solid, but we have to develop some depth at several key spots for this season and for the seasons to come.”

Reece said that most of their home district games will be on tuesdays. Non-district games include David Crockett, Cloudland, and Hampton. 

“Some are out of state. One tournament we committed to ended up getting canceled, but we will be playing in the NFS (with games against Science Hill and Unaka) and the Tiny Day Tournament in late April. Of course, that hits on prom weekend, but our younger players will have a great opportunity to step up.”

Reece sees Unicoi and Elizabethton at the top of the league, but they could be too if they play up to their potential and develop some depth in the right places. 

“We can be right there at the end of the season,” Reece said. “I guess most people will underestimate us based on the six seniors that graduated, but this group feels like they have something to prove.”