Stokes, Bateman, McCloud in star wars

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 28, 2004

Megan Bateman of Brookhaven and Kelly Stokes and Gina McCloud ofLawrence County will play their final high school fastpitchsoftball game Saturday. They’ll play for the South All-Stars in theMississippi Association of Coaches Third Annual Fastpitch Softballgame at Newton County in Decatur.

Fastpitch action, a doubleheader, begins at 12 noon. Slowpitchall-stars, playing the 18th annual game, will play a best-of-threeseries starting at 5 p.m. Both outings are sponsored by the RushSports Medicine Team.

“I’m looking forward to the all-star game,” said Bateman. “I getto meet a lot of new players.”

Bateman and her teammates reported Thursday for practice.Coaching the South fastpitch team are Bob Herrington of South Jonesand Wendy Hogue of Petal.

This summer Bateman and former high school teammate Mandy Vinsonhave been coaching a fastpitch team in the Brookhaven RecreationDepartment’s league. Bateman also has been playing on a tournamentteam (Seam Burners) who have won tournaments in Hattiesburg andChattanooga, Tenn.

“I play with some girls from Copiah Academy, Parklane, Amite andMadison,” said Bateman. “Jackie Stowe (Copiah) and a pitcher fromMadison-Ridgeland (Kimberly Hannan) are the main pitchers.”

Bateman starred at catcher for Coach Lisa Covington’s BrookhavenLady Panthers. She was the only senior on the team as they finished15-6. She batted .431 and successfully stole 41 of 43 bases. Sheearned co-Offensive Player of the Year honors on The DAILY LEADER’sAll-Area Fastpitch Team.

The next stop for Bateman is Copiah-Lincoln Community Collegewhere she will play softball for Coach Allen Kent.

“My summer has been going good,” said Stokes. “I’ve been playingsoftball.”

Stokes said she plays with the Diamond Girls out of Jackson, an18-under tournament touring team. “We’ve been playing tournamentsall over the South. We have three pitchers who are really good. Ourwhole team can play anywhere. It helps get me ready forcollege.”

Looking at her itinerary, Stokes said the team has been to St.Louis and New Orleans for tournament competition. Next month theytravel some more, going to Birmingham, to Bentonville, Ark., andthe last weekend in July to Beaumont, Texas.

McCloud is on a summer team called Mississippi Blast, based inClinton. “We have played each other a couple of times,” saidStokes. “We split the two games we’ve played.

“I hope Gina catches for me,” said Stokes. “She’s been catchingfor me for four years. We used to play on a summer league teamtogether.”

Recognized as Miss Softball and Player of the Year on The DAILYLEADER’s 2004 All-Area Fastpitch Softball Team, Stokes possessed adazzling array of pitches. She posted a 31-6 record, leading CoachBeronica Stringfellow’s Lady Cougars to a third place finish in thestate playoffs. In slowpitch softball, Stokes excelled as ahard-hitting outfielder.

Asked to compare the two sports, Stokes said, “Slowpitch wasdifferent and it was hard for me to adjust to hitting. It’s morelaid back and I like that. I didn’t have to get warmed up beforethe game, I just played.”

Stokes reports to Delta State in August. She’ll play for CoachDavid Kuhn.

McCloud, a Mississippi State signee, said she has been followinga rigorous summertime workout schedule. “I’ve been doing a lot ofrunning, mainly a bunch of sprints and agility drills. It makes youquicker.”

McCloud said she was looking forward to tomorrow’s games. “I’mready to play. I’m excited about it. I’ve never watched one.”

Asked about her high school teammate, McCloud said, “Kelly hasimproved tremendously since last year. She has more movement on theball and she’s in better condition.”

McCloud reports Aug. 15 to the MSU campus in Starkville. JayMiller directs the MSU softball program.

McCloud, The DL’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year, said sheenjoys playing behind the plate, even though it’s a hot, dirty job.”I’ve seen a lot of catching time. I’ve improved around the plate.You see the most action every pitch. It’s a mental game. It’s achallenge.”

As a senior McCloud batted .384.

All-Star notes: North Pike’s Brittany Alexanderwill play for the South slowpitch squad in tomorrow’s finale. Shewas recognized as The DL’s 2003 Offensive Player of the Year on theslowpitch dream team.