Like baseball and boys soccer, softball season has started up, and there will hopefully be a full season for the first time since 2019.
The weather forecast looks nicer this week than it has in the past three. There have been postponements and cancellations, but there is no sign the season will end.
Here is a look at the six Robertson County and White House teams one year after the shut down:
Lady Indians head coach Kevin Evans has been at ERHS for 17 years, and he has high hopes for his team this season.
“We’ve got offense, defense, pitching, all of that,” Evans said. “It may not be better than everybody in the state of Tennessee, but we know that if we play together with the work ethic that we have, we feel like we can go to the state tournament. That’s 100% our goal.”
Evans has a lot of confidence in his girls and their chances to go back to the state tournament for the first time in five years. He is only trying to figure out what everyone else’s teams look like.
“For me, it’s not about what I have; I don’t know what everybody else has,” Evans said. “We’re in single-A, so a lot of times in single-A, you’ll see freshmen, eighth graders, sophomores even, that are key players on some of these teams. I know nothing about them.
“What I do know about my team is the leadership, the chemistry that we have is really good. I know that we have all the pieces of the puzzle. It’s about putting them together. It’s about figuring out our communication and us working together. That’s where we’re at right now. Once we figure out how to work together, I think we can make the state tournament.”
There are five seniors returning for the Lady Indians, including Rylee Hinkle, Olivia White and Kaley Ezell. Rylee’s sister Savannah will also have a large role in the field.
They lead a group that Evans sees working hard to be the best they can.
“For girls, in my opinion, it’s about chemistry and about want-to,” Evans said. “These kids have want-to. We have the experience to go along with it. We’ve got some really good players on our team, but we understand, and we’ve bought into the concept that if we play together, we’re pretty good.”
Greenbrier head coach Janna Harris, in her sixth year at the helm, was excited to be back with her team in Gulf Shores, Ala. during spring break.
Almost every season the Lady Cats travel down there to play in their annual tournament, and last season, it was the final softball they played. Tennessee began to shut down, but they finished their games in Alabama.
“A year later, you’re back starting where everything ended, it was weird in a way,” Harris said. “You could also see what a difference a year had made. You were back, and you were able to play ball. There was a different attitude about it because there wasn’t the fear of what was going to happen. This year, there was a hope and we’re playing and we’re excited.
“It was a different feeling, but it was a positive feeling in that, too.”
Senior center fielder Raylon Roach had an impressive tournament with a batting average above .800. She signed in November to play at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.
While she brings a lot to the team, Harris said it has been their focus for everyone to do their job and not have to lean on a “hero.”
“Everybody’s doing their part and playing their role,” Harris said. “That’s something that we focus on. We don’t necessarily need a hero. We need all 17 of our players understanding what their job is for us to be successful.”
Given the lack of experience from the underclassmen, the team is still working out the kinks, but Harris said her team is working to get better, and it will come together more as the season goes along.
“I think they’re doing well, considering you’re playing with two freshman classes if you’re being honest,” Harris said. “We got in 11 ball games last year. You’ve had no pre-season, no scrimmages. There are things that we’re still figuring out, kinks we’re trying to work out.
“But the girls are being competitive. They’re making adjustments. They’re willing to learn. They’re willing to change. It’s just like any other season. There’s always an expectation there. They’re working hard to meet those expectations.”
“I was excited about last year, and everybody was kind of heartbroken,” then-first-year head coach Jada Head said about the 2020 season.
Head will have her first real crack at a full season with the Lady Devils this year. Six seniors return, including Kaley Morrison.
Morrison, a catcher, signed a few months ago to play college softball at Calhoun Community College in Ala.
“She’s probably one of the best defensive catchers I’ve seen,” Head said. “She can throw some girls out. She’s real quiet though. She’s not very vocal. She’s one of those behind the scenes leaders. She does her business on the field.”
Junior pitcher and shortstop Korey Harris is a key piece for the Lady Devils. In last season’s Gulf Shores trip, she was on the mound the entire time. Head also compared Harris to recently graduated Jada Herring, a current freshman player for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
“She’s not as fast as Jada, but she plays like Jada does,” Head said. “She definitely can steal some bases… She’s one to keep an eye on.”
The Lady Devils went down to Gulf Shores again this season and came away with a lackluster record, but Head sees a lot of potential in her girls and ways to improve their record.
“I have more confidence in them than they have in themselves,” Head said. “We went to Gulf Shores, and we went 1-4 which sounds terrible, but three of the four games we lost, we lost by one run. Clean up some base running, clean up some defensive moves, that’s a win.”
Daniel Owsley is in his ninth season at Springfield, and the last full season was historic for the Yellow Jackets. The team advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Last season could have been even better. All of the pieces were there for another deep postseason run, but the pandemic stopped all hopes of that.
A quality senior class did not get to play out their athletic careers, and now there are roles that need to be filled.
“We’re going to compete,” Owsley said. “We’re going to get out and battle everyday. We’re young. We graduated a slew full of seniors. Four of them are playing at the next level. We’ve only got really two seniors that are playing right now. We’ve got two that are injured. We’re juniors and down.
“The season is what it is. It’s a chance to practice and get better for tournament time.”
Junior Brie Asmondy has been a fixture on the mound since her freshman year. She throws the “big-time games,” including the state games in 2019.
Senior Ellie Friedmann returns in center field. Junior Sarah Nicholson is the team’s lead-off hitter this season. Both have experience from their deep runs.
Much of the early part of the season will be focused on giving reps to younger, less experienced players.
“All the kids on my team, when we go to a tournament, I’m not trying to win the Commando Classic,” Owsley said. “I’m trying to get varsity reps for players. If we happen to get pretty good ways into it, so be it, but it just means more playing time for younger kids.
“I want to get those varsity reps built into those young kids. That way, they’re going to be able to handle those big-time games when it’s time.”
“You really don’t know how much something means to you, just like in life and any other thing, until it’s gone, until it’s taken away from you,” White House head coach Cindy Towers said. “I think it affected me in the same way it affected my ball players.”
Towers has spent 26 years at White House and had never seen anything like what happened in 2020. The missed time has created a lot of unknowns.
“We’re just trying to figure out where we’re going to be,” Towers said. “Not having a pre-season has really -- in all my years of coaching -- it’s really hurt in the fact that by now I (usually) have an idea of who I think is going to be where.
“I’m still trying to figure that out. I told the girls several times that the lineup probably won’t be set for quite some time just because different people grow at different stages. They get comfortable at different points of playing.”
The Lady Devils are very young. Freshmen will get the opportunity to play this season. Four seniors return including Kaylee Rogers and shortstop Miranda Cain, who both have prior in-game experience.
“(Rogers) is in the lead-off position,” Towers said. “She’s there for a reason. It’s not that she has the best batting average. She understands that lead-off role. She works really hard at setting the standard for the young kids.”
White House Heritage
Kim Snyder enters her fourth season as the head coach of the Lady Patriots. Some of her players played softball outside of school over the last year, but she has noticed their “desire” to play the game this season.
“My guys really have had a desire to get back out on the field,” Snyder said. “You can tell a difference. We’ve had some weather that’s kept us inside quite a bit. It’s tough on them on those days to pick up the energy, but they all love this game.”
Senior Samantha Burke, a pitcher and center fielder, has given the team a boost. She transferred into Heritage last season from Corona, Calif. Burke has already used her expertise on the field and shared it with her teammates.
“Corona has a long history of softball play,” Snyder said. “She comes to us with a lot of softball knowledge and experience.”
She has recently come back from surgery to repair her labrum, but even before she was fully recovered, she made an impact on her peers, according to Snyder.
“Sam has used that comeback and her rehab to help inspire her teammates,” Snyder said. “She has used that time to help with the knowledge she has with the game. She is fully recovered; she’s 100%. She’s been of course a part of our game on the field about every time we went out.”
Senior Julie Glodoski plays third base for the Lady Patriots. Her mindset is a great asset to her and her team.
“Julie leads a lot through her attitude,” Snyder said. “Julie’s very devoted to this game… Julie knows that everything we give them serves a purpose, and it’s only going to make her better. That is constantly on her mind, getting better at this game, doing what she needs to do for this team as well as for her game.”
As far as what Snyder has seen from her team thus far, her girls have worked to get better. Even if they make mistakes, they are there to support each other.
“I like what I’m seeing,” Snyder said. “I like when we do make some mistakes, we sort of regroup, pick up each other. That’s been a big focus. Understanding as excited as they were to get back into this game, they of course want to be perfect, and that’s not going to happen.”