TRM softball looks for encore after year of firsts
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They set a school record for wins in a season. They won their first Area Tournament championship. They advanced to the state tournament for the first time.
In more simple terms, 2004 was a storybook year for the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers softball program.
"We took some big steps last year. One of the most pleasant reasons we were able to achieve what we did is because we improved so much the second half of the season and we were able to do that with (pitcher) Halie (Ellis) out for a while with an injury," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
If the Lady Tigers are to have a similar kind of season this year, Riggs said there are places where the squad needs to perform better. One of those areas might be T.R. Miller's play on the road. Despite their overall success last season, the Lady Tigers were just 4-7 away from the Brewton YMCA Park as compared to a 14-1 mark on their home turf.
The Lady Tigers graduated some key cogs from the squad that compiled a 21-8 record (18-8 on the field) such as pitcher/third baseman/outfielder Rebekah Neal, centerfielder Jamie Peacock and outfielder Lacey Lucas. They also got an unexpected loss when starting first baseman Charity Coleman moved.
While there are some holes to fill, T.R. Miller does have several key personnel back.
Success in softball usually boils down to pitching and the Lady Tigers do return senior righthander Halie Ellis. Ellis split most of the pitching chores with Neal last year.
How far T.R. Miller goes may depend on how well it develops a number two pitcher to complement Ellis. Junior righthander Leigh Cooper figures to get that challenge. Ellis showed some flashes last year with a one-hit shutout against W.S. Neal in the Area Tournament. However, Ellis is perhaps the anchor of the Lady Tigers infield defense at shortstop.
"We'd prefer to keep Leigh at shortstop because she does such a good job there. She is the vocal leader of our infield. However, there will be times we need for her to pitch," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller also returns the other portion of its middle infield defense with junior second baseman Haley Rilling.
The corner spots of the infield are less solidified. Freshman Rachel Bostic and sophomore Haley Gibson are in a close battle at first base.
At the other infield corner, freshman Leslie Nalty and junior Catherine Layton are hooked up in a battle for third base. Junior Emily Layton got some starts, especially the second half of last season, at third base. However, Emily Layton will probably move to centerfield.
There is no competition behind the plate. In fact, junior Terri Lynne Peacock caught every inning last season.
In the outfield, T.R. Miller returns senior Erin Byrne in rightfield.
Senior Courtney Krehbiel saw some outfield time last year. Krehbiel's workload may increase this season, especially in the leftfield spot.
Sophomore Taelor Robinson could also get some outfield time, especially in leftfield or centerfield.
T.R. Miller Lady Tigers Softball Schedule
Mar. 1 Straughn Home 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 7 W.S. Neal Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 10 J.U. Blacksher Home 4:30 p.m.
Mar 11-12 Andalusia Tournament
Mar. 15 Excel Away 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 17 Jay Home 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 21 Jay Away 6 p.m.
Mar. 22 Flomaton Away 4 p.m.
Mar. 24 Escambia County Away 4 p.m.
Apr. 5 W.S. Neal Away 4 p.m.
Apr. 7 Monroe County Home 4:30 p.m.
Apr. 12 Flomaton Home 4 p.m.
Apr. 14 Excel Home 6 p.m.
Apr. 18 Monroe County Away 4:30 p.m.
Apr. 19 Escambia County Home 4 p.m.
Apr. 25 Straughn Away 4:30 p.m.
Apr. 26 J.U. Blacksher Away 4:30 p.m.
Apr. 28 Andalusia Away 4:30 p.m.
May 3 Andalusia Home 4:30 p.m.