By Rocky Higginbotham
Winston County Journal
Winston Academy posted a 13-win improvement from its 2015 fast-pitch softball season to last year.
To duplicate that feat again would be nearly mathematically impossible. But that’s not to say that first-year head coach Ken Dana and the Lady Patriots aren’t hoping to build on that success.
“We had a great showing last year in the (North State Tournament) and we’re hoping we can make it back there and go even further this time,” Dana said last week as his team prepares to open a new season.
Winston will get its 2017 fast-pitch season under way Saturday, when the Lady Patriots travel to the Winona Christian Invitational for a pair of games.
The Lady Patriots are scheduled to take on Central Holmes at 9:45 a.m., then battle Carroll Academy at approximately 1:45 p.m.
The following week, Winston is scheduled to host Oak Hill Academy on Tuesday (Aug. 1) and Winona Christian on Thursday (Aug. 3) before going to Wayne Academy on Friday (Aug. 4).
“The girls have been practicing hard in this heat and we’re excited about getting started,” Dana said.
Two years ago, a young Winston squad won just one fast-pitch game. But a more experienced team rolled to a 14-13 record last year and finished fifth in the MAIS Class AAA North State Tournament — just one game away from reaching the Class AAA state tourney.
Gone from last year are four senior starters who will be difficult to replace, including first baseman Emily Morgan, shortstop Brooke Watson, catcher Mary Morgan Clark and outfielder Lauren Moran.
Back, though, is pitcher Katie Dana. She spent most of her first year at Winston in the circle after transferring from Leake Central and is now back for her senior year.
Sophomore Nicole Disbrow, a transfer from Central Academy, could be the catcher, while freshman Anna Vowell may be the first baseman.
Junior Bailey Wood will likely play shortstop, with eighth-grader Laura Vowell at second and senior Alexa Johnson at third.
Senior Sarah Catt, junior Anna Claire Bucklew and freshman Skylar Eaves will make up the outfield at times, although Eaves could move to third on occasion with sophomores Taylor Gregory and Mary Ashlyn Dewberry both fighting for playing time, as well.
Eaves and freshman Kalie Waggoner could also see time in the pitching circle.
Others vying for time include freshmen Emma McCool, Brayleigh Gregory, Micha Carr, Jayden Rogers, Makenzie King and Laura Beth Clark.
The same goes for eighth-graders Sophie VanLandingham, Aspen Harris and Laney Gregory.
Rounding out the squad are seventh-graders Mackenzie Eaves, Jennie Hamilton, Ashtyn Drury, Larissa Salers, Mary Kate Gray, Ann Carter Perkins, Olivia Mayo, Mayson Smith, Halle Maroney, Kallye Garrard and Madi Lee and sixth-grader Anna Grace Whitehead.
Dana, who has about 13 years coaching experience, is in his second year at Winston and first as head coach. He’ll be assisted by Derek Eav