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Lady Panthers start fastpitch season Sat.

With eight starters back, the Ole Brook Lady Panthers anticipatea banner campaign in fastpitch softball. They receive their firsttest Saturday in an MHSAA Classic Tournament at Loyd Star.

Coach Lisa Covington’s Lady Panthers play North Pike at 1:15 andLoyd Star at 3:30.

“We are looking pretty good,” said Covington. “A lot depends on howwell we hit the ball. We should do well defensively.”

Covington, who also coaches the slowpitch team, is in her fifthyear as head coach of the fastpitch squad.

She has a new assistant coach this year in Chad Walker.

Last year the Lady Panthers finished 15-6, third behind divisionchampion Lawrence County and runner-up South Jones in the divisionrace.

Ole Brook lost one starter to graduation in all-star catcher MeganBateman who signed with Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

“We have everybody back,” said Covington, “plus a couple of newones.”

Asked for a tentative starting lineup Covington said Kayla Princewill be at third base, Taylor Crane at shortstop and catcher,Allyson Wallace at second base, Kelly Vinson and Megan Tussey atfirst base, Ashley Sykes pitching, Lauren Smith in left field,Brittany Smith in center and Terri Hodges in right.

This is the third year for Sykes to be on the mound. She was namedThe DAILY LEADER’s Most Valuable Player on the 2004 All-AreaSlowpitch Team. Brittany Smith and Hodges also pitch.

Ole Brook has six seniors on the team in Lauren Smith, CasiLangston. Prince, Wallace, Crane, and Tussey.

“We have some experienced seniors who can provide some leadershipfor us,” said Covington.

Asked about a favorite in the division race, Covington said most ofSouth Jones’ starting lineup returns. “Lawrence County is alwaysgood, too.”

Other division foes are McComb, West Jones and Mendenhall.