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Sykes swings bat, makes plays, earns MVP honors

Ashley Sykes swings the bat with authority and she sparkles atshortstop, too. Combining exceptional offensive and defensiveskills, Sykes was the catalyst in Brookhaven’s march to the Class4A South State finals in slowpitch softball.

Sykes, a 5-foot-7 junior, has been selected Most Valuable Playerand Miss Softball on The DAILY LEADER’s 2004 All-Area SlowpitchSoftball Team. She batted .619 and slugged 10 home runs for CoachLisa Covington’s Lady Panthers.

Two more Players of the Year on the DL’s Dream Team are firstbaseman Alicia Kennedy of West Lincoln, Most Valuable DefensivePlayer; and Candace Braxton of Bogue Chitto, Most ValuableOffensive Player. The team was selected by the DL’s sports staff,with input provided by area high school and college coaches.

The DL’s pitching staff includes Brittany Smith of Brookhaven,Latoya Braxton of Bogue Chitto and Abby Williams of BrookhavenAcademy.

Catchers are Christi Martin of Brookhaven, Dori Hall of BogueChitto and Amber Beeson of Brookhaven Academy.

Infielders joining Kennedy and Sykes are Meleah Brown of BogueChitto, Lauren Smith of West Lincoln, Emily Smith of LawrenceCounty.

Outfielders joining Braxton are Kaylin Burke of Enterprise,Ashley Palomarez of West Lincoln and Chelsey Miller of BogueChitto.

The dream team’s extra hitters are Jasmine Courtney of LawrenceCounty and Britnee Smith of West Lincoln. The utility players areAllyson Wallace of Brookhaven and Candace Avants of BogueChitto.

“Ashley did an outstanding job on defense for us,” said OleBrook head coach Lisa Covington. “She hits the ball hard to allfields.”

Sykes was moved to shortstop from second base after last seasonand she has enjoyed the change. “There’s a lot of action atshortstop. I love it.”

At the plate, Sykes said, “I like the right corner of the plate.I try to hit to all fields.”

In fastpitch this spring, Sykes will take the mound. “I preferpitching over shortstop.”

Candace Braxton (5-6), a senior, playedright-center on Bogue Chitto’s Class 1A state runner-up squad. Sheslugged 14 home runs for the Lady ‘Cats and accounted for 68RBI.

“Candace hits the ball harder than any girl I’ve seen,” saidBogue Chitto head coach Scott Leggett. “I just tell her to relax,be patient and hit a good pitch.”

Braxton said Leggett has helped her improve her skills. “Coachwas patient with me and we worked on it a lot. Being relaxed at theplate is important. I like hitting to the opposite field andshocking (opponents).”

Alicia Kennedy (5-9), a senior, helped the LadyBears win the Division 7-1A championship and advanced to the Southstate semifinals. She batted .513 and had 39 RBI. She bats left andthrows right.

“Alicia has a lot of range at first base,” said West Lincolncoach Andrew Redd. “She has an extremely strong arm.”

Redd said Kennedy’s batting skills are exceptional, too. “Aliciawas one of the most consistent batters we had. She came through allyear with the clutch hits, a lot of line drives.”

This is Kennedy’s fourth year to play first base and she enjoysit. “You get more action at first.”

Kennedy also plays first base on the fastpitch softball team. Inbasketball, she stars at forward/center as a rebounder and ashooter.

Brittany Smith, a Brookhaven junior, fashioneda 28-7 record for the Lady Panthers. At the plate, she batted.526.

Abby Williams, a senior, posted a 19-11 recordfor the BA Lady Cougars as they finished third in the statetournament last spring. She also batted .543.

LaToya Braxton, a sophomore, was 16-9 on themound for the Lady ‘Cats. She batted .349.

Amber Beeson, a graduated senior who signedwith Co-Lin, batted .527 for the BA Lady Cougars.

Christi Martin, a sophomore, batted .487 forthe Lady Panthers.

Dori Hall, a sophomore, worked behind the plateand batted .368.

Meleah Brown, a junior, batted .436 andcollected 23 RBI for the Lady ‘Cats.

Lauren Smith, a senior, played second base andbatted .485 for the Lady Bears.

Emily Smith, a junior, batted .532 for CoachTarvey Ward’s Lady Cougars who were runners-up in the Division 6-4Arace.

Chelsey Miller, a sophomore, batted .496 forthe Lady ‘Cats and had 25 RBI.

Ashley Palomarez, a senior, batted .509 for theLady Bears. She had 43 RBI and 8 homers.

Kaylin Burke, a senior, batted .556 for CoachSteve Sasser’s Lady Yellow Jackets.

Jasmine Courtney, a sophomore, batted .600 forCoach Ward’s LCHS squad.

Britnee Smith, a sophomore, batted .496 and had28 RBI for the Lady Bears.

Allyson Wallace, a senior, accounted for 6homers and averaged .564 at the plate for the Lady Panthers.

Candace Avants, a sophomore, batted .438 forthe Lady ‘Cats and had 37 RBI.

HONORABLE MENTION WITH DISTINCTION

Bogue Chitto: Haley Roberts, Brynna Wallace,Kayla Smith.

Brookhaven: Kayla Prince, Taylor Crane, KellyVinson, Lauren Smith.

Brookhaven Academy: Emily Langley, JessicaHart, Maddie Allen.

Enterprise: Melane Rutland, Alisha Mason.

Lawrence County: Kaila Givens, Cori Walker,Ellie Fairburn, Sonni Smith, Maygan McCloud.

North Pike: Emily Vanlandingham, LeonnaBallard, Casey Dickerson, Catherine West.

Wesson: Julie Berry, Stacy Lowery, SamEllison.

West Lincoln: Holli Smith, April Kennedy,Heather Huff.