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Lady Panthers launch softball season Sat.

Lisa Covington begins her 13th year as head coach ofBrookhaven’s slowpitch softball team this weekend. Her assistantcoaches are Chad Walker and Tiffany Strain.

Covington’s Lady Panthers debut Saturday, hosting an MHSAAClassic tournament at the Ole Brook Softball Complex. The LadyPanthers play North Pike at 10 a.m., followed by Pearl versus NorthPike at 11 and BHS versus Pearl at noon.

Five starters graduated from Covington’s 2005 Division 6-4Achampionship squad. They included MVP shortstop Ashley Sykes,pitcher Brittany Smith, outfielder Jana Wallace, catcher KatieSmith and first baseman Kelly Vinson.

Returning starters are Terri Hodges and Katie Stewart in theoutfield and Christi Martin at third base. Hodges has been moved toshortstop to shore up the infield.

Martin was recognized as the team’s Most Valuable DefensivePlayer last season and she batted .385. Martin batted .448 andStewart .422.

“We are in the rebuilding stage,” said Covington. “We have ayoung group coming up who had a pretty successful junior varsitycareer. Hopefully, the younger kids will step up.”

Working as pitchers this season are sophomore Brianna Ashmoreand seventh grader Brooke Hosick.

Outfielder Sabrina Delaughter sustained a torn ACL during asummer soccer match and will miss the season. The sophomore startedat first base in fastpitch last spring.

Covington said Lawrence County should be the team to beat in thedivision race. “Florence should be competitive, too.”

Other division foes are McComb, Mendenhall and Port Gibson.