The 2012 7/8 year old All Star team won the Sportsmanship award for the overall state tournament earlier this month in Hattiesburg. Players include Livi Howell, Regan White, Lizzie Carpenter, Gracey Saxton, Kylee Creel, Katilyn Johnson, Jada Richardson, Lauren Pigg, Gracey Manor, Resa Carter, Ann Hampton Wells and Harli Vandevere. Coaches are Jamie Carter, Bubba Saxton, Bridgett Vandevere and Jeffrey Carpenter.
The 9/10 year old All Star team won the Sportsmanship award for the state tournament held earlier this month in Hattiesburg. Players are Hanna Clark Havens, Keely McGinty, Ann Marie Jones, Destiny Epps, Taylor Ray McDaniel, Nicole Jones, Rakayla Rankin, Meri Grace Saxton, Anna Beth Overholser, Tailyn Essco, Mary Grayson Martin, Hannah. Coaches are Chuck McGinty, Laura Beth McDaniel and Jason McDaniel.
TVince Davis has been a part of all but one of Benton’s 13-straight playoff appearances and will look to make it 14 in-a-row with a young squad in 2012.By TAYLOR MITCHELL
This is the second part of our 2012 fast pitch softball preview. Games begin July 27th.
When the 2012 Lady Raider softball team takes to the field for the first time on July 30, they will do so with a history of one of the most successful softball programs in the state.
Since Benton first began playing fast pitch softball in the mid-1990s the Lady Raiders have advanced to 13 straight playoffs, including last season.
“I’ve been playing since the seventh grade and it was exciting to come up and work for a spot,” senior Nora Grace Davis said. “It was kind of nerve racking because I was a little girl, but it was great playing with the older girls because I learned a lot from them and helped me get better.”
The Lady Raiders enter the 2012 season looking for playoff appearance No. 14 with a head coach who has been a part of the playoff streak since it began in 1998.
“I’ve always been a part of the program. I started helping out and then grew into the head coaching job,” head coach Vince Davis said. “They had started (fast-pitch softball) in the Jackson and Madison schools. We were a little late getting started, but were one of the first teams in Yazoo and the delta region.”
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The Mitchell ReportContinuity is the toughest thing to accomplish in sports.
Whether its having a steady number of players on a team each year or continuing a winning streak, keeping a streak of any type alive and kicking is something to be proud off.
That just makes the Benton Academy softball team’s 13-straight playoff appearances all the more special.
I’ve seen some pretty amazing runs of greatness in my time, but can’t recall any teams that advanced to their sports’ playoff 13 straight times.
That’s three cycles of students who started out as freshman, or younger, and played all the way to their graduation as seniors. That’s longer than most pets live and the streak is older than most of the players’ younger siblings.
It’s amazing when you take a step back and look at the big picture. Every season since 1998 the Lady Raiders have had a shot at winning the state championship. Not many other teams can claim that.
Are there more impressive streaks? Sure. South Panola’s run of 80-plus games without a loss is right up there (I’d still love to see those teams play a team or two from Texas). Bayou Academy’s current streak of six-straight championships may be the most amazing streak I’ve ever seen, but Benton’s is right up there with them.
The question now is will the Lady Raiders make it 14 in-a-row?
I’m no Nostradamus or anything, but I’ll go ahead and say we’ll be seeing Benton in the playoffs again. But it won’t be an easy task.
Head coach Vince Davis has already told me this year’s team is the youngest he has ever had at Benton Academy and that could spell trouble.
Experience is the one invaluable attribute that can’t be coached or learned. It’s just something that happens without you ever noticing. It is also the one thing the Lady Raiders are lacking.
Yes, there is some experience in players like Nora Grace Davis and Jenny Reynolds, but one must remember that softball is also a team-sport. Benton will have to start two new players in the infield and the lack of experience at the plate could hurt them.
That’s the bad. The good is all of that will work itself out over the season. There isn’t anything holding them back except for themselves and I doubt that’ll be a problem.
The one issue that could derail the Lady Raiders’ hopes of another playoff appearance is them being complacent in playing the season.
It would be easy after going to the north half and state tournaments to subconsciously expect yourself to be there. When that happens, you don’t work as hard during practices and games. That folks is the main ingredient in upsets and shockers.
However, I don’t expect this to be a problem with Benton this season. Like Davis has told me on several occasions, this is a young team and will have its struggles, but that’s just it. Those struggles and inexperience will make the playoffs something new to them. It may not be like Christmas morning, but it won’t be something taken for granted.
The season is still over a week away and there is a whole lot of time before we begin talking about the playoffs again.
When we do, though, I’m sure there will be some red and gold in the discussion.
Manchester’s Kaitlin Woods (left) and Benton’s Jenny Reynolds (right) will be back inside the circle for their respective teams in 2012, a year after both pitchers showed they have what it takes to be a dominant pitcher.By TAYLOR MITCHELL
This is the first story of the 2012 preview of the upcoming fast pitch softball season. Games begin July 27th.
Every coach wants a dominant pitcher who desires to have the ball in her hand.
No matter if it’s a state championship game or the first game of the season, coaches know how important it is to have a confident pitcher inside the circle.
Manchester Academy head coach A.J. Downs and Benton Academy head coach Vince Davis are lucky enough to each have a pitcher who fits that description.
“You want your pitcher to say ‘give me the ball and they won’t score another run,’” Downs said.
For Manchester, it’s senior Kaitlin Woods who is the ace of the staff. For Benton, it’s reigning Softball Player of the Year Jenny Reynolds.
Both pitchers have the ability to get batters out -either through a strikeout or the defense behind them - and the ability to control the game.
“If you have a dominant pitcher and a few good people to go to behind her, you can go a long way,” Downs said. “She can control the game. It’s close and fast-paced. Even in baseball you could say that good pitching beats good hitting any day. In softball, I think it that’s much more magnified.”
Which is why both coaches will rely on their ace pitcher to lead the way.
For Benton, a team that may very well start two new players in the infield, having Reynolds back inside the circle will help make the infield’s job that much easier.