By Reid Bankston
WATER VALLEY – After a disappointing 7-13 season in 2008, you could understand if Water Valley head coach Shane Brown kept his expectations relatively low this season. However, that’s the furthest thing from the truth, as Water Valley’s head man expects big things from his girls this season.
Although the Blue Devils’ roster is littered with youth and inconsistency, including 14 girls in 9th grade or younger, Brown thinks it’s time for his girls to step up to the plate.
“We’re looking to finish first or second in the district, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t, we lost one person and we filled that spot,” said Coach Shane Brown. “I’d call us an underdog, but I’m all about the underdog.”
On The Mound
Brown will look for a pitching staff by committee to lead the Blue Devil charge on the mound in 2009. Although Brown acknowledges that there is no ace on the Water Valley staff, he does think his staff has depth.
“We’ve got Chancie Joiner, Chestin Joiner, Kelsey Kimzey, Callie Davis, Shade Epes, Tyler Epes, and Haley Vance who will come in and pitch,” said Brown
Kelsey Kimzey, who started against Pontotoc in last weekend’s jamboree, looks the most likely to be the go to pitcher for Water Valley thus far in the season. The sophomore, who also plays at second, recorded eight strikeouts and only gave up three hits in the 5-1 loss to the Warriors.
Kimzey also pitched against New Albany in Water Valley’s season opener on Monday night. However, Kimzey struggled with consistency, recording four walks and three hit batters in five innings of a 12-8 loss. If Brown can sharpen Kimzey’s consistency, Water Valley could really reap the benefits come division play.
At The Plate
Leading the Blue Devils offensively will be freshman Haley Vance, who batted .450 last season, and Ashley Phillips, who led the team with a .543 average in 2008. However, Brown is having to make do without both of his leading sluggers due to the success of Shane Linzy’s girls basketball team, but he hopes to have both girls, coupled with several others, step up this season.
“We have Ashley Phillips and Haley Vance coming over from basketball and we really need them,” said Brown. “We come out here and work hard and we’re getting better. I’m trying to find a leadoff hitter, but we’re coming around. Pitching is everything in softball and we don’t have that dominant pitcher. But that’s why I’m big on hitting, we hit every day, and my girls can hit better than most teams.”
In the absence of Phillips and Vance, Nakresha Folson and Mallory Washington have gotten off to a positive start for the season. Folson, who looks to secure the lead-off spot, had a hit and a run scored against New Albany, while Washington pitched in with a double and a single, to go with three runs scored. Taylor Coffey looks as if she could be set for a solid season after her three walks and scoring four times in the season opener.
If Water Valley can continue to produce at the plate, and solidify their rotation, the Brown’s girls could be the surprise team in a very competitive division.
“The district is tough, Hatley and Hamilton made the playoffs and they didn’t lose anybody. Bruce lost a few, but they’ll be back,” said Brown. “It’ll be a tough race and there is no doubt that every night in the district matters for everybody. I think Hamilton is the team to chase if I had to pick, they’re really tough.”
They may not be the division favorite, but rest assured that the Blue Devils are up for the challenge in 2009.