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Lawrence Co. girls dream of state title

MONTICELLO – Senior pitcher Stacy Smith calls it “a dream cometrue.” Smith and her Lawrence County teammates battle New HopeSaturday for the Class 4A slowpitch softball state championship atVA Field in Jackson. The best-of-three series begins at 11 a.m.

The LCHS Lady Cougars (31-4) are fresh from beating Petal in theSouth State finals. They enjoyed a first-ever softball pep rallytoday in preparation for the state title showdown.

“Our kids are all excited,” said LCHS head coach Tarvey Ward.”This is our year.”

Asked to describe his team, Ward said, “We hit the ball realwell. We have a lot of pop. I have eight batters who can swing thebat. Seven of them have hit (home run) it out.

“We have a very good defense,” Ward continued. “We field in thehigh 90s. We don’t make many errors. We didn’t make an erroragainst Petal,” in the South State finals which went three gamesTuesday at Monticello.

Ward’s starting lineup includes Allie Williamson, left-centerfield; Ashley Autman, left field; Emily Smith, shortstop; HeatherSanders, third base; Stacy Smith, pitcher; Keke Slay, first base;Kelly Stokes, right-center field; Cori Walker, right field; KailaGivens, second base; and Maygan McCloud, catcher.

There are eight seniors on the Lawrence County roster. Six ofthem are in the starting lineup.

Stacy Smith is batting .616 for the Lady Cougars. Emily Smithbats .611. Sanders follows at .562, Williamson at .538, Autman at.500, Slay at .481, Walker at .445, McCloud at .434, Givens at .421and Stokes at .400.

None of the girls on the team average under .300.

“This is the first time for me to be leadoff batter,” saidWilliamson. “My teammates depend on me to get things started.”

Williamson said she’s confident the Lady Cougars can defeat NewHope. “If we play together as a team, we can beat anybody. Thisgroup of seniors has been together since we were eight years old.We have worked hard for it.”

Ward has been head coach for 2 years at LCHS. His wife, Suzie,has been assistant coach for 7 years, 5 with the previous headcoach, Patsy Sandifer.

“We work pretty good together on the softball field,” said Mrs.Ward. “We discuss everything before we make any majordecisions.”

She played high school baseball as Suzie Arnau in 1975 atMonticello. Girls softball wasn’t available back then.

Ward, 52, was a standout high school athlete and signed afootball scholarship with Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He alsoexcelled in baseball and softball.

Two years ago, Ward was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had asuccessful surgery but still has semi-annual examinations.

Suzie has taught kindergarten in Monticello for 17 years. “Ilove working with both ages.”

The Lady Cougars lost 6-3 to New Hope in the Meridian tournamentearly in the season. They also lost to Northeast Lauderdale in 9innings in the tournament. Other losses were to Clinton andPetal.

“I think we can go all the way,” answered Stacy Smith, whenasked about her team’s chances tomorrow. “Everybody has stepped upwhen they needed to and everybody has a good attitude.”

Williamson said playing for Tarvey Ward was a rewardingexperience. “It’s not just a coach/player relationship. He’s like afather to us.”

Smith agreed. “Coach Ward knows what he’s doing. It’s aprivilege to be a Lady Cougar and play for him.”

The Smith sisters lead the team in home runs. They also lead inRBI and Stacy has over 70 RBI.

“They (Petal) walked my Smith girls every time in the second(playoff) game,” said Ward. “They are very athletic and strong.They were brought up playing. They know the rules and thegame.”

Tarvey Ward is a 1970 Monticello grad.. His wife graduated in1976. They have coached summer league baseball and softball sincetheir children were young. Their 12-under team won NSA, ASA andUSSSA state championships.

“This is a special group of girls,” said Ward, referring to hisseniors.

Lawrence County Express won the ASA 16-under State championshipin the summer of 2000, providing a preview of future success forLCHS.