After totaling just four wins last season, the Loudon High School Lady Redskins softball team is looking to take a leap forward in District 5-2A.
Second-year head coach Chris Hayes expects Sweetwater and Meigs County to be near the top in the district, but he believes the Lady Redskins will make an impact.
“Of course, Sweetwater’s always good, that’s our target, then Meigs, they’re a cornerstone also — I’d love to split with them,” he said. “I think we should hold our own with some other teams. Of course, we’re still rebuilding, it seems like we say that every year, and I’m second year in, but we’ve got good pitching and should be able to add to what we did last year. We had more wins than the previous year. I told the girls, ‘I want to double it this year.’ If we can double it this year from where we were last year ... and we gave a few games away last year. Across the bridge, the rival, that’s always a big one.”
Hayes has been concerned with limited practice time this offseason.
“Weather permitting, we’ve really just worked on hitting, I mean, that was one our weakest parts last year, and I want to get in as much hitting in as possible this year,” he said. “We’re bringing back three good juniors. We’ve got a really young team. I’ve got a few young freshmen that are with them that are bringing back a good core. I’ve wanted to concentrate on hitting, wanted to concentrate on our small game. ... I’ve got a lot of hope for this year and added a few key players that are coming in as freshmen that should fill some holes.”
The Lady Redskins will field a mixture of experience.
Juniors Maylee Cooley, Morgan Lanham and Chloe Rausin make up the core of the team. Senior transfer Sydney Smith could make an impact with her pure athleticism.
Rausin has been a key player for the Lady Redskins the past two seasons but is recovering from a knee injury sustained playing basketball. She is expected to return early in the season.
“During basketball season, my knee dislocated, went out of place and popped back in, and so I tore the tissue that’s connected to my patella,” she said. “They’re trying to get my kneecap stabilized to where I can get out. I’ve been doing physical therapy two to three times a week, and I’m going to try to continue that, so hopefully my knee can get stronger.”
Cooley was the team’s ace last year, recording a team-high 3.19 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. She struck out 65 batters and gave up just nine walks en route to being named to the All-District 5-2A first team.
“I just want to get everyone’s motivation up and want to win more, and last year I thought we were kind of down on that, so I want everyone to have a good attitude about it and want to play and have fun,” Cooley said. “I’ve been working in the offseason and playing travel ball to make myself better, and I hope that I can help out the team. I’ve been working on my speed to try and get it up and just been working on spins at the house.”
Lanham was an All-County selection last year and the starting second baseman.
She expects defense to be one of the team’s top strengths.
“I feel like we’re good defensively, especially in the infield,” she said. “We’ve got most of our upperclassmen infield, so we should be good there ... and hitting, too.”
Hayes will also rely on other players, including All-County nominee Jayden Scott, sophomore outfielder Lilli Hayes and sophomore catcher Jazmine Wells.
“Looking hard to our catcher, she’s a sophomore, second year catching, and she’s going to be a really big asset for Maylee and Chloe to pitch to,” he said. “Jayden Scott made All-District last year and is a big stick in the lineup. Hopefully, some of the speed in the outfield ... my daughter, Lilly Hayes, is going to be the centerfielder and is going to be relied on heavily to cover the holes of some other girls who are moving slower.”
The Lady Redskins will look to improve upon their win total.
“Once we finally got the whole team together, I was really pleased with the way they practiced as a team,” Hayes said. “I was really surprised with how good they played together ... it was really cohesive with the girls that were filling in. It was a lot of growing pains last year, and they retained a lot of what they learned from last year. It wasn’t as much coaching needed this year when started as it was last year. It’s a big step from middle school to high school, and they’ve handled it well. I’m really pleased with them.”
The Lady Redskins’ first game of the regular season will be at 5:30 p.m. March 16 at home against the Tellico Plains High School Lady Bears.