By John Davis, Sports Editor
There are a handful of returners back for the Oxford Lady Chargers on the softball field. Coach Steve Blackmon said his young team was working to get bonded. <>
He is looking to Kaytlon Pegues, Madison Crosby, Harley Thomas and DD Mathis to lead the team in 2016. The Lady Chargers have seemingly been young every season, so it’s not a suprise to Blackmon in regards to finding a way to mesh that youth together. When the basketball season comes to an end, Blackmon will get back Kyla Malone, a senior who provides pop in her bat.
Blackmon said Thomas is “fiery” and that she knew how to play the game behind the plate. Through last week, Thomas has been hurt, and sidelined with a hip injury. She was able to return to practice this week but she can’t catch.
“We’re relying on our second catcher, Kelsey Wilbourn, who is very athletic. She’s a ninth grader and still trying to get through basketball,” Blackmon said.
Former Ole Miss pitcher Laruen Lindsey is leading that area for Blackmon, who added that the staff was coming along well. Amber Pettis, who has played first base and outfield, is working as a pitcher as is Gracie Beardain, who is a ninth grader. Blackmon said she threw for the middle school last season.
“They’re coming along and we’re getting them live hitters and experience. I would like to think we could get Amber to the point to where she could be the one that actually starts for us,” Blackmon said. “Madison Crosby is our best shortstop and our best pitcher. Early in the year, you can experiment to see if we can afford to have her at short and not have to put her in the circle or if we have to put her in the circle, we will, and then adjust the defense. Madison came on strong the last third of the season pitching wise. She was our second pitcher and she is the one player I’ve got that eats and sleeps it 24-7.”
Fast-pitch softball is a pitching game and Blackmon was hoping to get Pettis to the point where she could consistently throw strikes and make other teams swing the bat and put the ball in play.
“If we’re wild and really struggle in the circle, we won’t have a way to stop what they’re doing if we don’t throw strikes,” Blackmon added. “That’s a focus, pitching and defense. That’s what we’re working real hard on. I think we will hit the more we see live pitching. We did last year in spurts. We have to play defense. We have to catch it when they hit to us. Everybody will tell you that. The key is to not give the other team more than three outs per inning. Make the plays they hit to you because big innings seldom happen without help from the defense.”
Division play begins on March 24, and maybe by then most, if not all, of the kinks will be worked in order for the Lady Chargers to punch a ticket back to to the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
“We’ll be in the same spot as we were last year. It’s the same as it has been since I’ve been here, New Hope and Saltillo have finished one-two in some order. Then it’s between us and West Point for that third spot,” Blackmon said. “It had been us until West Point beat us out for it last year.”