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Lady Wolves eager to begin tourney play

To say the Co-Lin Lady Wolves are anxious to play, is anunderstatement. Co-Lin head coach Allen Kent said his girls werechomping at the bit before practice Wednesday afternoon.

Co-Lin is one of 12 teams in the NJCAA National FastpitchSoftball Tournament which started this morning at Champions Field,a sports complex located in Normal, Ill.

The Lady Wolves face the winner of the Kankakee (Ill.)/OrangeCounty (N.Y.) game today at 1 p.m. Co-Lin received an opening roundbye. If Co-Lin loses, the Lady Wolves play again at 4:30 today inthe double-elimination tournament. A victory advances them to a 10a.m. Friday contest.

Co-Lin’s team left by chartered bus Tuesday morning and arrivedin Normal about 8 p.m. The journey included stops for lunch anddinner, plus an hour’s delay in Memphis when the charter changeddrivers.

“It was a long hard trip,” said Co-Lin head coach Allen Kent.”It took about 13 hours.”

Most of Kent’s team slept peacefully during the journey. Thetournament’s welcome banquet was held Wednesday night at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Sophomore catcher/third baseman Megan Bateman of Brookhaven andher Co-Lin teammates ate lunch at a mall Wednesday. “We are eatingChinese food,” answered Bateman, when asked about her gourmetselection.

Like her teammates, Bateman said she missed the endless miles ofcorn fields which border the interstate highway running throughcentral Illinois. “We slept like babies.”

Asked about Co-Lin’s chances in the national tourney, Batemansaid, “We had the team to win state and regional. If we continuethe way we are playing at nationals, we have a pretty goodchance.”

What is the secret to Co-Lin’s success?

“We are being patient at the plate and hitting strikes,” repliedBateman. “We always had potential. Everybody is workingtogether.”

She is majoring in secondary education, with a minor incoaching.

Sophomore second baseman Jackie Stowe of Hazlehurst (CopiahAcademy) said the Lady Wolves are realizing a dream in making theirfirst national tournament appearance. Obviously, some dreams docome true.

Stowe said she likes Co-Lin’s chances in the nationals. “We arepeaking at the right time. Last year we were 27-2 at the end of theseason but then we lost four in a row,” in the state and regionaltournaments.

A probable Academic All-American with a 4.0 GPA, Stowe said theteam began hitting the ball better as the season progressed. Shepointed to Co-Lin’s remarkable comeback win over LSU-Eunice in theregional semifinals. The Lady Wolves rallied for 10 runs in theseventh inning to win 11-7 and reach the finals.

“LSU-Eunice has a very good team,” said Stowe. “We knew we hadto beat them.”

Co-Lin isn’t a power team. The Lady Wolves bunt and run thebases. Hits, singles and doubles, usually come in bunches.

“Hitting is contagious,” said Stowe. “We all believe it.”

Kent’s team will face some genuine powerhouses. They’ll have torely on defense, pitching and scratch out some runs.

Like all of the member schools in the Mississippi Association ofCommunity/Junior Colleges, Co-Lin is at a disadvantage. Co-Lin isrestricted to district schools for most of its recruiting. Kent hastwo out-of-staters on the squad, Texas pitchers Emily Horne andErin Douglass.

Phoenix College of Arizona boasts the best record at 51-9.Phoenix is the 2-time defending national champion.

Parkland (Ill.) College is in its fifth consecutive trip to theWorld Series. The Cobras (46-6), ranked second nationally, are oneof six ranked teams in the tournament.

Two more Illinois entries are Kankakee (46-7) and Black Hawk(38-7).

Co-Lin (37-7) is ranked fifth in the national poll. Meridian,last year’s region champion, finished fourth in the 2005 nationaltournament. Hopefully, Co-Lin can either match or improve on thatstandard.

Kent and assistant coach Johnny Williams have done anoutstanding job with the Co-Lin softball program. Interestcontinues to grow. Most importantly, area high school fastpitchteams are elevating the quality of their programs. That alsobenefits Co-Lin.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com