IF last season’s 4-16-1 campaign was about rebuilding, East Jackson hopes this year is about rewards.
The Eagle softball team – which started five freshman last fall – returns all but two starters from last year and has enjoyed renewed energy in the offseason as it looks to steer the program back towards state tournament contention.
“I think they’re ready to be honest,” fifth-year coach Jason Rainey said. “I think you’ll see that we’ll be way more competitive. I think we’re going to compete with anybody. Winning it, that’s kind of hard and difficult, but I think we’ll have a chance at least to compete.”
The Eagles are led by do-everything shortstop Rebecca Turner, the team’s lone senior. Turner, entering her fourth year with the varsity, doubles as a pitcher when she’s not in the middle infield. Turner is also the top returning bat in the lineup, hitting .409 as a junior.
“She’s our team leader,” Rainey said. “She’s done a really good job in that role actually. She’s really done well.”
Junior lefty Taylor Nix joins Turner in the rotation. Elsewhere, sophomore Beth Doss returns at first base; sophomore Brittany Nolan is back at third base; and junior Kelsey Palette returns at second base. The rising star of this group could be sophomore catcher Emily Turner, who had an outstanding summer and is projected to take over behind the plate for the graduated Brooke Yarbrough.
“She might have had the best summer out of anybody,” Rainey said. “She played catcher as well as anybody I’ve ever coached this summer. She just came on.”
In the outfield, East Jackson loses three-year varsity player Brooklyn Watkins but sophomore Destiny McHann, Nix, freshman Kristin Whitlock and sophomore Lauren Sanders all return.
After going 26-9-1 in 2008 and winning the region, the program has since fallen on hard times with only nine wins in the last two years. But Rainey notes the jolt the program has now with these players. He reported great participation in summer workouts and in the team’s 12 summer league games.
“I think everybody has worked a little harder,” he said. “I’m really excited.”
The coach also points out that the support system is there, too.
“I don’t want to slight anybody from the past, but I feel like our parents are really involved and excited,” Rainey said. “They showed a lot of excitement this summer.”
With all that in place, East Jackson’s goal is a trip back to the state tournament, something that’s eluded the program for the past two seasons.
“Our goal is definitely to get back to the state tournament,” Rainey said. “For sure, we want to be competitive in the region. It’s tough to win (the region), but we want to be a team that it kind of goes through because we want to be part of it and we want to compete and play hard and have something to say about it.”
From reading this article are we left to conclude that the girls mentioned have already made the varsity team? Since I see only nine names mentioned I was wondering when we will know the names of the other team members who made varsity.