Key injuries took their toll on Co-Lin’s softball hopes

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 21, 2007

WESSON — Co-Lin head softball coach Allen Kent and his LadyWolves had high hopes for the 2007 campaign. Coming into thisseason, they were the defending South Division, MACJC State andNJCAA Region 23 Tournament champions. Last year’s 2006 squadfinished third in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament held atNormal, Ill.

As the season went along, injuries hit the Lady Wolves hardtowards the end and eventually knocked them out of the SouthTournament for the first time in Kent’s five years.

Co-Lin finished the season 25-15 overall and 7-9 in the South.Gulf Coast and Pearl River advanced to the state tournament.

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“Injuries hurt,” said Kent. “They took their toll on us.”

The Lady Wolves were 5-1 at the end of the first round of SouthDivision play when key players began to sustain injuries. Theyfinished 7-9 in the South.

Freshman infielder Ashley Sykes (Brookhaven) went down with asevere ankle injury. Sophomore infielder Kady King (Parklane)reinjured her knee. Starting sophomore catcher Lauren Smith (WestLincoln) went down for the rest of the season with a severe anklesprain. Freshman backup catcher Britnee Smith (West Lincoln)aggravated a back injury.

Kent was forced to switch his lineup around. Players were forcedto play in another position. It showed on the field.

“If we had stayed healthy, we would have been in pretty goodshape,” explained Kent. “Our whole infield was helter-skelter. Ithurt us. We didn’t make the plays in some of those closegames.”

Co-Lin finished one game short of making the playoffs and had towin one of its last two games with Gulf Coast but it didn’thappen.

During the season the Wolves lost three division games by 1run.

Co-Lin, Gulf Coast and Jones County were all ranked in the Top14 in the national poll during the season.

Kent was pleased with his pitching staff. Freshman Meleah Brown(Bogue Chitto) finished 9-4 with 71 strikeouts in 72 innings and 23batters walked. Her opponents batted .203 against her and her ERAwas 2.52.

Following Brown was freshman Caroline Burks (Loyd Star) who was4-2 with 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 51 innings. She had thelowest ERA at 2.17. Opponents batted .258 against her.

Freshman Kayla Crochet (Baton Rouge, La.) followed with a 9-5record, fanning 79 batters in 77 innings with 20 walks. Her ERA was2.88 and opponent batted .258 against her.

Sophomore Erin Douglas (Katy, Texas) finished 5-4 with an ERA of2.98. Douglass is the only pitcher the Wolves lose this year.

With players forced to play out of position, mistakes were madeon the field. “We gave up 4.3 runs a game,” stated Kent. “Ourpitchers’ ERA was 2.65. We made too many errors. They killedus.

“We hit .329 as a team this year,” continued Kent. “I wasdisappointed we only had 75 walks in about 1,100 at bats.”

At the plate, Brown directed the Lady Wolves with a .382 battingaverage, including 3 home runs, 14 doubles, 32 RBIs and a .609slugging percentage. “Meleah had a knock out year,” expressed Kent.”She’s a great pitcher and an athlete. I was pleased with how wellshe adapted to playing in our league. She’s disciplined at theplate. She played every infield position for us.”

Following Brown at the plate were Sykes and freshmanoutfielder/infielder Emily Langley (Brookhaven Academy). Sykesbatted .342 with 18 RBIs, including 1 home run and 5 doubles.Langley batted .348 with 2 homers, 3 triples and 2 doubles. Shestole 11 of 12 bases this year.

“We are looking toward to next year,” smiled Kent.

Two of Kent’s new signees are experienced catchers: Becca Boone(Copiah Academy) and Missy Paulina (LaPlace, La.).

“Boone has a lot of experience,” said Kent.”She has a strong armand good release. Pauline is a very sound catcher. Both swing thebats well.”

Another big signee is pitcher Rebecca Rousseau of San Antonio,Texas. “I am real excited about Rousseau,” stated Kent. “She hasall the pitches. Her best pitch is a curve ball. She throws at 61MPH. She hits the ball real well.”

Another pitching signee is Ashley Jones from Lawrence County.”She also swings a pretty good bat,” added Kent.

The Lady Wolves will be 5 pitchers strong for the 2008season.

Kent also signed 3 outstanding players from Bogue Chitto:Candace Avants, Chelsey Miller and Devon Welch. Kent said the BogueChitto signees are all versatile and have good speed.

A late signee is sophomore Amber Bowman (Wesson) as a baserunner. Bowman played on the Co-Lin women’s soccer team lastyear.

“We signed a pinch runner,” said Kent. “Amber has exceptionalspeed. She’s a good kid. We are looking forward to having her.”

Kent said this was the first time in his five years at Co-Linthat all the sophomores graduated. He had 8 girls earn theirdiplomas a week ago Saturday.

“I an proud they all graduated and are continuing theireducation,” said Kent. “Five turned down the opportunity to playball on the senior college level.”

Due to the success of the 2006 team, opponents were notsurprised by this year’s Lady Wolves.

“People (opponents) seem to really get up for us,” said Kent.”We didn’t match their intensity when we hit the field.”

Kent said he was pleased with support the Lady Wolves havereceived from their fans. “I am proud of our fan support. Somepeople like to watch softball. We have a lot of faithful fans. Thegirls and I really appreciate it. “

“It still was a good year.”