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Archives 03-16-2005

Sports

 

Cats strong on arms and experience
-Lady Cats ready for 2005 softball season

 

 

 

Cats strong on arms and experience

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Members of the 2005 Livingston Academy Wildcats are, front row from left, Kurt Gilbert, Tyler Thrasher, Anthony Matthews, Griffin Lee, Tyler Sells, Joe Reynolds, Matt Lee, Zack Ramsey, middle row, Josh Coffman, Cody Sells, Brian Colson, John Ward, Jonathan Maynard, Jimmy Davidson, Shane Livingston, Chris Nelson, Johnny Cyrus, Andrew Neff, back row, Todd Smith, Mark Barnett, Paul Ragland, Cody Winton, Daniel Elder, Andrew Dixon, and Clint Durham.

By DEWAIN E. PEEK, OCN Sports
Pitching is the heart of a baseball team, and Livingston Academy is blessed with an abundance of heart.

The Wildcats will return three starting seniors to the mound, and add in a junior with experience. And that's just the main rotation, the team has other arms at the ready.

Coach Pat Swallows said, "Our pitching is going to be senior dominated, with the exception of Tyler Thrasher. He did a good job last year, and has gotten bigger and stronger.

"Brian Colson's coming out of basketball. He hasn't thrown as much as the rest of them.

"Cody Sells has been a starting pitcher for most of his high school career.

"Shane Livingston has gotten stronger, and he will be in the top four.

"After that, we've got some young guys who can step in and help us."

With those strong arms and the experience of the rest of the team on the field, the only question seems to be: How far can the Cats go?

"We've got high expectations," Coach Swallows said. "Whether we can perform to the level that we want to be remains to be seen. With seven starters coming back, we feel like we've got a chance to be pretty decent.

"We've set high standards, and we always look at winning the district championship, and the region championship, and getting a chance to go to the state tournament. That's our goal."

Most of the positions on the field are filled by the same men in blue as last year.

"We have 8 seniors, and 6 of them were starters last year, and 2 are coming in who started some," Coach Swallows said. "We're going to have pretty good experience.

"Then we've got about 7 juniors, and about 8 sophomores, and 4 freshmen. The young guys, the freshmen, they're just learning the system and trying to get the signs down and all those things, but yet they're good athletes and they're going to play somewhere along the line.

"Chris Nelson will be behind the plate," Swallows said of his returning catcher.

"Right now, we've got kind of a battle at third base. When Cody's on the mound, it will be Andrew Dixon or Anthony Matthews, who are both playing extremely well and hitting the ball well. Dixon was a DH and part-time starter last year. And Anthony's worked hard and got himself in this situation. So, we're real solid at third.

"At short, Tyler Thrasher's just really done a good job. He is heads above where he was last year. That's from hard work.

"At second base, Johnny Cyrus is returning. He's been at second for two years; this will be his third year as a starter there.

"At first, John Ward is there, where he started last year.

"Brian Colson's a kid that can go in any direction. He can play third, he can go to shortstop, he can play first; we could even put him in the outfield if we needed to, when he's not on the mound. But he's got to be in the lineup somewhere because of his stick.

"In the outfield, Shane Livingston will take over Cody King's place in left field. Jimmy Davidson's back at center. Jon Maynard, another senior who has worked hard and got a chance to play, is going to be in right field."

Going into the season opener at home on Tuesday, March 15 against Monterey, the LA Cats appeared to be on track in practice, except the hitting was showing rust.

"In what we've done so far in the pre-season, we've done a very good job defensively, and our pitching's real solid,” Coach Swallows said. “We haven't hit the ball the way we're capable of, but when you spend six weeks inside the cage hitting tees and soft-toss and short stuff, then you come out and see a real arm, somebody who's throwing some breaking balls and spinning it a little bit, then you don't hit it."

The usual suspects are expected to vie for the District 7-AA championship this year.

"DeKalb's going to be solid again, and so is York," Coach Swallows said. "Everybody's looking at us as the favorite.

"It seems like everybody's got that one guy they can throw. That's where I feel we've got a step up on everybody. We can go three for sure, and maybe four against some of these people.

"We are confident we can win this thing."

 

Lady Cats ready for 2005 softball season

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Members of the 2005 Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats softball team are, front row from left, #25 Tara Taylor, #5 Heather Carwile, #10 Stasha Babb, #3 Jessica Lee, #32 Ashley Howard, #9 Lisa Reeder, #2 Kaylie Wilson, middle row, #11 Megan Harris, #14 Ashley Mitchell, #20 Kayla Ferrell, #24 Brittany McDonald, #33 Jessica McDonald, #34 Andrea Borden, #19 Jessica Conatser, back row, #88 Liz Hall, #7 Betsy Wright, #1 Trista Nelson, #23 Ashley McDonald, #13 Katie Vaughn, #8 Kirstie Dillon, and #21 Amanda Roberts.

By DEWAIN E. PEEK, OCN Sports
Hitting fast-pitch softball is harder than slow-pitch, and a cheeseburger has cheese on the burger.

But that is the problem in high school softball - if the batter isn't used to it, she struggles hitting the cheese.

This elementary element of softball is the variable in the Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats' 2005 softball season, according to Coach Mike Johnson.

"Hitting is always going to be a problem until we have girls that have had more experience at hitting fast-pitch than just in their freshman year," he said.

"That's always going to be a concern for us."

To remedy the problem, the Lady Cats have been visiting an indoor batting cage in Cookeville.

"We always try to work on that, and try to get plenty of live-action hitting in," Coach Johnson said.

"Bunting is another big thing we've had to work on, because they never do that in slow-pitch."

While slow-pitch hurts hitting in high school, it improves another area of the game.

"Our fielding is always a plus," Coach Johnson said. "Having slow-pitch as a background helps them in fielding because that's all they do. The ball is hit constantly; they're always fielding the ball.

"So, they've had a lot of experience in fielding. Fielding should always be a bonus here at Livingston Academy."

This year's team should benefit from experience, starting on the mound.

"We have both of our starting pitchers from last year, who pitched in every game, returning this year," Coach Johnson said referring to seniors Ashley Howard and Tara Taylor.

"We have a lot of returning players who have had game experience. We have a lot of seniors this year. We should do well.

"We do have to replace four starters from last year -our entire outfield and the first baseman. We've had a lot of competition for those spots. I don't exactly know who's going to start in them yet.

"Some girls are going to have to step up and play who haven't had much of an opportunity. Hopefully, somebody will step up and take their place and fill their shoes. If that happens, we should be a pretty good team this year," he said.

Along with Howard and Taylor, other seniors on the team are Jessica Lee, Whittney Sells, Andrea Borden, Stasha Babb, and Brittany McDonald.

The team has 6 juniors - Ashley McDonald, Jessica McDonald, Ashley Mitchell, Kirstie Dillon, Lisa Reeder, and Heather Carwile; 6 sophomores - Kayla Ferrell, Trista Nelson, Megan Harris, Kaylie Wilson, Katie Vaughn, and Amanda Roberts; and 3 freshmen - Jessica Conatser, Liz Hall, and Betsy Wright.

A middle school fast pitch team was started last year, and the three freshmen got a look at fast-pitch while playing on the team.

"So that should have given them a little bit of a head start, hopefully, on the girls we've had before who had never seen it," Coach Johnson said. "I guess we'll find out in two or three years when they've had a lot of playing time here."

Looking at the district race this year, Coach Johnson said, "For the last two or three years, and even before I became the coach here, DeKalb County and Smith County have always been strong. They will be good.

"York should be really good this year. They've got two pitchers there who were good last year.

"We should be pretty good.

"Cannon, Upperman, and Jackson, they're all decent teams.

"We should be able to compete for the top two or three spots like we did last year."

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