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West Lincoln catcher named MVP

Lauren Smith played baseball until she was 12 years old. That’swhen she made the change to fastpitch softball, starring as acatcher for the West Lincoln Lady Bears.

Now a graduated senior, Smith’s accomplishments on defense andoffense have earned her The DAILY LEADER’s Most Valuable Playerrecognition on the 2005 All-Area Fastpitch Softball Team. MissSoftball has signed a softball scholarship with Copiah-LincolnCommunity College.

Two more special awards were achieved by area players this year.Loyd Star pitcher Caroline Burks was chosen Defensive Player of theYear and Lawrence County shortstop Emily Smith was named OffensivePlayer of the Year. Both girls are right-handed juniors.

The Dream Team was selected by members of the DL’ssports staff, with input provided by area high school and communitycollege softball coaches.

The All-Area pitching staff also includes Meleah Brown of BogueChitto and Heather Huff of West Lincoln. Catchers are Kaylin Burkeof Enterprise and Kelly Vinson of Brookhaven.

The infield includes Alicia Kennedy and Britnee Smith of WestLincoln, Allyson Wallace of Brookhaven and Amber Restivo of LoydStar.

Outfielders are Candace Braxton and Chelsey Miller of BogueChitto and Emily Langley of Brookhaven Academy.

The Dream Team’s designated hitters are Ashley Sykes ofBrookhaven and Bryanna Wallace of Bogue Chitto. Utility players areEmily Vanlandingham of North Pike and Kaila Givens of LawrenceCounty.

West Lincoln’s Andrew Redd, the DL’s Area Fastpitch Coach of theYear, has watched his catcher steadily improve her skills. She alsostarred in slowpitch, helping lead the Lady Bears to the stateplayoffs last fall.

“Lauren is a very good defensive player,” said Redd. “She workswell behind the plate and does a good job with our pitcher. She’sbeen a senior leader for us.”

Smith, a point guard on West Lincoln’s state tournamentsemifinals team, also signed a basketball scholarship with Co-Lin.She plans on playing both sports in college.

“There’s a lot of action behind the plate,” said Smith. “Itrequires a lot of thinking.”

Smith said the Lady Bears surprised a lot of people this season.”Nobody believed in us at West Lincoln. We had not had muchsuccess.

“Our team went out there and played hard,” Smith continued. “Wehad teamwork. That’s how we won district.”

Burks fashioned a 16-9 record on the mound, helping lead LoydStar to the state playoffs. The junior right-hander struck out 126batters and walked 25.

Burks made a courageous comeback from a facial injury shesustained as a sophomore. She was hit in the forehead with a linedrive. Surgeons placed a metal plate in her forehead. She wears aprotective mask when she’s on the mound.

For her size, 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds, Burks is a dynamitepitcher. She has an arsenal of pitches, including a fastball,curveball, screwball, riser and a drop.

Burks moved to Loyd Star from Ferriday, La. She’s been pitchingfor six years. She said she enjoys the spotlight and playing forCoach Jan Delaughter.

“I’m in control on the mound,” said Burks. “The game can’t gountil I throw it.”

Delaughter commended Burks on her dedication to the game.”Caroline has a great work ethic. She has a lot of differentpitches and she’s smart. She knows what to throw.”

Emily Smith, a 5-9 junior, is a vacuum cleaner at shortstop andshe excels at batting, too. She averaged .439 this season, hitting5 triples, 3 doubles and 1 home run. She batted in a team-best 12runs and stole 5 bases for Coach Beronica Stringfellow’s LadyCougars.

“I watch the pitcher and see what she does,” said Smith, whouses a 33-inch, 26-ounce Anderson Rocket Tech bat. “I try to get myswing right and hit something.”

Stringfellow said Smith’s batting skills are exceptional. “Emilyis a great batter. You watch other coaches trying to figure outwhat to throw to her. She’s fairly patient and she runs the baseswell.”

Meleah Brown fashioned a 13-5 record on themound as a junior, striking out 129 batters in 112 innings. Shealso batted .386 for Coach Scott Leggett’s team.

Heather Huff posted a 14-6 record for WestLincoln as a sophomore.

Kaylin Burke, a senior, has signed with Co-Lin.She batted .345 for Coach Steve Sasser’s Lady Yellow Jackets.

Kelly Vinson, a junior, batted .288 for Coach LisaCovington’s Lady Panthers.

Alicia Kennedy, a senior first baseman, batted .404 forthe Lady Bears.

Allyson Wallace, a senior second baseman, batted .311for Brookhaven. She has signed with Co-Lin.

Amber Restivo, a junior shortstop, batted .302 for theLady Hornets.

Britnee Smith, a junior shortstop, batted .250 for WestLincoln.

Candace Braxton, a senior outfielder, batted .250 forthe Lady ‘Cats.

Emily Langley, a junior outfielder, batted .357 forCoach Mike Rhodus.

Chelsey Miller, a sophomore outfielder, batted .419,best on Bogue Chitto’s team.

Ashley Sykes, a junior, posted a 12-10 record forBrookhaven as a right-handed pitcher. At the plate, she batted .338and hit 4 home runs.

Emily Vanlandingham, a senior catcher, batted .373 forCoach Sonya Wallace’s Class 3A division champion North Pike LadyJaguars.

Brynna Wallace, a senior third baseman, batted .400 forthe Lady ‘Cats. She has signed a scholarship with SouthwestMississippi Community College.

Kaila Givens, a senior second baseman, batted .250 forLawrence County. She has signed a scholarship withSouthwest.