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Jefferson Forest’s new softball head coach, Joanna Hardin, has moved quickly to make some changes for the team.
For instance, Hardin has instituted a team leadership council. She’s also made the decision to move the home dugout to the third-base side of the diamond.
All well and good.
The big question is whether Hardin can emulate the success that Gary Harris’s teams had at Jefferson Forest. Harris, who moved due to an employment opportunity in North Carolina, had led the Lady Cavs to five Seminole titles in six seasons.
To get there, Hardin will have to overcome (or exploit) the defining aspect of this team: its youth.
If fact, the team has but a single senior on the roster.
“It’s a really young squad,” said Hardin. “I’m very excited, though. It’s a special group.”
It will have to be, if it expects to successfully navigate that oh-so-fraught-with- danger Seminole slate.
Don’t worry, though, the Lady Cavs will bring plenty to the party.
Start with pitcher Alexis Brown, who made the second team of the All-Seminole squad last year as a freshman. “She’s in great shape and is pitching with confidence,” said Hardin.
Another one who should figure prominently is center fielder Hailey Pinchbeck. A junior, Pinchbeck brings a commanding presence to the outfield and to the team. In fact, they call her “The Commander.” She may well be the best hitter, fastest runner and best student of the game on the squad.
The Morris sisters should see plenty of softball. Junior Regan was a sharp third baseman last year. She’ll see time there and at shortstop. She has great hands for short, but also has the speed to play third.
Younger sis Skyler can cover second and can catch.
Hardin, by the way, wants to build depth, and does so by building proficiency for each player at multiple positions.
So, Callie O’Brien can plug in at catcher or at third. Taylor Tibbs can play first or short. Brown, when not pitching, and Nina Grennon can cover first, as well.
MacKenzie Mount, a freshman, and junior Ashley Hunter should also see time at second. base
In addition to Regan Morris, Pinchbeck can play shortstop.
Lindsey Bare, who is that lone senior, can play third. Bare brings an upbeat approach to the game. “She helps keep us grounded,” noted Hardin.
Additional outfielders should include a mix of underclassmen such as Chelsea McKinney, Ricki Jones, Chelsea Hudson and Makayla Hostetter.
The team seems focused. “We’re building chemistry and pride while having fun,” noted Coach Hardin.