Howard directs Dream Team

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 8, 2008

Slowpitch softball is a popular pastime in southwestMississippi. Coaches and players work hard to be successful, oftenwinning district championships and advancing to the stateplayoffs.

Bogue Chitto shortstop Kelli Howard is one of those players whoworked overtime to improve her skills. The versatile senioranchored the Lady ‘Cats as they sought to defend their 2007 statechampionship. That goal eluded them but Howard’s performance wasexceptional in the field and at the plate as the Lady ‘Catsfinished runners-up in the Division 7-1A race.

For her efforts, Howard has been chosen The DAILY LEADER’s MostValuable Player and Miss Slowpitch Softball on the 2008 All-AreaTeam. At the plate, Howard batted .406 and collected 33 RBI.

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Area softball teams were successful as West Lincoln won theDivision 7-1A crown and left-centerfielder Ashley McCaffery wasnamed Defensive Player of the Year. Shelby Mitchell of LawrenceCounty pitched and batted her team to the Division 6-4Achampionship, earning her Co-Offensive Player of the Year honorswith Sabrina DeLaughter of Brookhaven.

The All-Area Dream Team was selected by DL sports staff, with inputprovided by area high school and college coaches.

Joining Howard, McCaffery, Mitchell and Delaughter on the All-Areasquad are pitchers Brianna Ashmore of Brookhaven, Jessica Franklinof West Lincoln and Lacey Orr of Enterprise.

The catchers are Christen Benson of Brookhaven, Haley Ainsworth ofWest Lincoln and Daphne Armstrong of Lawrence County.

The infield includes Alexis Cook and Hannah Knouse of West Lincolnand Hannah Lowman and Karlee Martin of Brookhaven.

The utility players are Kacey Smith of Franklin County, DarcyMiller of Bogue Chitto and Laura Beth Wright of BrookhavenAcademy.

The extra hitters are Betsy Lynch of Brookhaven Academy and AnnShelby Davis of Wesson.

Outfielders include Erika Rutland of Enterprise, Allie Harris ofLawrence County, Julie Case of West Lincoln and Ann Shelby Davis ofWesson.

Be it offense or defense, Howard is an exceptional player accordingto Bogue Chitto coach Scott Leggett. She is a 3-year starter atshortstop and works inside the circle as a pitcher infastpitch.

“Kelli Howard has been a great defensive player for us the pastthree years,” said Leggett. “She has done a fantastic job. She hasrange and a strong arm. She has good height so she can jump up andtake some hits away.”

At the plate, Leggett said, “Kelli’s

always been a great stick for us. She has power and she can hitto all fields. She can just about do what she needs to do. She’s avery smart player, too.”

Howard, standing 5-foot-10, plays center on the basketball team.Her favorite sport is softball.

Wearing a Mizuno glove Howard can cover a lot of territory atshortstop. At the plate, she swings an Anderson RockeTech bat,weighing 23 ounces and sprays hits to all fields.

“I like playing shortstop because you get a lot of action,” saidHoward. “You have to be ready to move quick.”

Batting No. 2 in the lineup, Howard said she was patient. “I didn’ttry to do anything spectacular. I just tried to put the ball inplay and hit behind the runner.”

The Lady ‘Cats were eliminated in the state playoffs by EastWebster. “We got beat by a good team,” said Howard. “All of ourplayers have heart. They work hard to get better.”

She said she enjoyed playing for Bogue Chitto coaches Scott andDenise Leggett. “They are great coaches. They say as long as we’vegot God, He’ll take us as far as we can go.”

An exceptional student, Howard said she plans to pursue a career indental hygiene at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. She maintains a3.7 GPA and “loves A&P,” anatomy and physiology.

Sabrina DeLaughter, a 5-foot-5 senior leftfielder, is the thirdyoungest of four sisters to play softball for Ole Brook coach LisaCovington. She batted .516 this season.

DeLaughter had knee surgery two years ago and had to sit out hersophomore season. Covington moved her from the infield to theoutfield this season.

“I like playing left field,” said DeLaughter. “You get a lot ofballs hit to you.”

Her batting skills have impressed opposing teams. She said beingpatient is a key to her offensive success.

“Sabrina is aggressive at the plate,” said Covington. “She hasworked hard at hitting to all fields. She will do anything andeverything to make herself a better player.”

Covington said DeLaughter sets and example for her teammates tofollow. “She is the first one on the field and the last one off.She’s a leader for us.”

DeLaughter plays first base on the fastpitch team. She hopes toplay for Co-Lin where she will begin pursuing a career as a teacherin elementary education.

Shelby Mitchell, a 5-8 sophomore, was a key to Lawrence County’smarch to the Division 6-4A title under first-year head coachCourtney Shivers. As a pitcher, Mitchell compiled a 22-8 worksheet.She struck out 41 batters and walked 24.

Consistency describes Mitchell, a left-handed batter. She batted.570 and hit with authority to all fields. She plays catcher infastpitch.

Mitchell said it felt “awesome” to receive the offensive award.

“Shelby comes out every day and she works real hard,” said CoachShivers. “She is very consistent. Every time she comes to theplate, you can count on her hitting to right field and advancingthe runners.”

Mitchell said the Lady Cougars worked hard for Coach Shivers. “Ilike playing for her.”

Ashley McCaffery, a 5-5 junior, is recognized for her exceptionaldefensive skills. She provided several impressive plays during thestate playoffs as the Lady Bears advanced to the Class 1A statechampionship series.

“Ashley gets such a good jump on every ball,” said West Lincolncoach Andrew Redd. “It’s like she knows where the ball is goingwhen the batter swings. That gives her a two or three-stepadvantage.

“She has a real good arm and very good speed,” Redd pointedout.

Brianna Ashmore fashioned a 15-12 mound record for the LadyPanthers. She batted .382.

Jessica Franklin posted a 26-10 record for the Lady Bears.

Lacey Orr registered an 18-8 pitching record for Coach SteveSasser’s Lady Yellow Jackets. She batted .420.

Christen Benson, an eighth grader, batted .426 for the LadyPanthers.

Haley Ainsworth batted .319 for the Lady Bears.

Daphney Armstrong batted .460 for the LCHS Lady Cougars.

Alexis Cook batted .393 for the Lady Bears.

Karlee Martin batted .454 for the Lady Panthers.

Hannah Knouse batted .413 for the Lady Bears.

Hannah Lowman batted .439 for the Lady Panthers.

Kacey Smith batted .536 for Coach Dana Smith’s Franklin County LadyBulldogs, helping them to the division 3A championship.

Laura Beth Wright batted .633 for Coach Ricky Allen’s BA LadyCougars, collecting 38 RBI in the team’s Class AA state titlemarch.

Betsy Lynch batted .619 for the BA Lady Cougars.

Ann Shelby Davis batted .712 for Coach Hugh Webb’s Wesson LadyCobras.

Erika Rutland batted .440 for the Lady Yellow Jackets.

Allie Harris batted .470 for the LCHS Lady Cougars.

Julie Case batted .430 for the Lady Bears.


Bogue Chitto: Blaine Myers, Josie Porter, Chris May, AmandaOwen.

Brookhaven: Sarah Ayers, Casey Risher, Erica Bridwell.

Brookhaven Academy: Anna Katelyn Mangold, Kelli Snider, LayneJordan, Kellie Brady.

Enterprise: Kolbi Lewis, Karla Hux, Ashley Greer.

Franklin County: Kierra Collins, Taylor Stewart, Courtney Reid,Mildred Starks.

Lawrence County: Daphne Armstrong, Kristen Sauls, NatalieHerrington, Hannah Calcote.

Wesson: Dallas Jackson, Leah Greer.

West Lincoln: Keri Easley, Shelby Lofton, Laina Laird.