By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
There is a good reason to be excited if you’re a Johnson County Middle School softball fan in 2018. The team returns five starters from last year’s squad that won the conference tournament.
Head coach Greg Reece is back for another season, and he sees this group as being talented and very coachable.
“We have five returning starters from last year,” said Reece. “We have some other returning eighth graders that will get worked into the starting lineup. We presently are trying to find the right mix defensively. We have several good pitchers, and each has their own style. We can be very flexible at different positions, and that’s a good thing to have as a head coach.”
Hailey Rider, Jayla Gregg, Sydney Potter, Faith Walsh and Hailey Cox return after starting in 2017.
Gregg hit a torrid .531 last year and drove in 33 runs will handle the catching duties. Walsh, Rider, Potter, and Cox all hit better than .450 in their starting roles.
The Longhorns will count on Kristen Day, Morgan Murwin and Sarah Rider to log plenty of playing time. Maddi Furches is another player that will likely see the field as an outfielder. Ashlee Anderson and Kaydance Ward will try and earn time as well.
“We are excited to get the season going,” added Reece. “The middle school season is starting a little earlier this year, and we have been blessed with good weather so far. We have scrimmaged Vance so far and will get one in with Unicoi.”
The team opened up against a very good T.A. Dugger team on the road and lost a hard-fought 6-3 game on Monday. The game was decided on the final pitch.
“We play a pretty good conference schedule, but out non-conference games are tough,” said Reece. “We’ll play Unicoi for the first time in addition to Vance. We also have home and away games with T.A. Dugger, Bluff City, and Sullivan North.”
The team will take part in the Grandview Invitational at the end of April. They have won it or finished no lower than third the past three years.
“We lost some big-time players from last year’s 17-7 team,” said Reece. “They were tough-minded girls that just found a way to win games. We will miss them, but the incoming seventh graders are buying into our culture and our system.”
Hannah Fritts, Autumn Lewis, and Autumn Shepherd are three seventh graders that could contribute.
Reece will be assisted by Erin Miller and Abigail Reece.