Stacy Parker, who is entering his first season as coach, knew the Lady Catamounts would be young this year.
He didn’t think they would be this young.
Parker, who has previously assisted with baseball and football at Dalton, hadn’t expected starting senior shortstop Destinee Woods to tear an anterior cruciate ligament at a basketball camp at Clemson University in June.
“Now I’ve got one senior — starting right fielder Eternity Goodman,” said Parker, who took over the program when Jeff McKinney stepped down after one season to become the school’s athletic director.
Three juniors, five sophomores and eight freshmen round out the roster.
“We scrimmaged Murray County, a really good hitting team, on Monday and four freshmen started,” Parker said. “That’s how young we are.”
Those four newcomers were Gabby Wright (center field), Haley Ledwell (second base), Katy Buckner (shortstop) and Alli Swinford (pitcher). The Lady Cats won, 9-8, with two runs in the eighth inning after the game went to international tiebreaker rules.
Swinford and Buckner combined to go 4-for-6 with three RBIs in the preseason tuneup. Third baseman Christen Pender, a junior, went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and four RBIs.
Other scrimmage starters were left fielder Blayne Thomason, a sophomore, first baseman Kerri McKeehan, another sophomore — junior Kylee Harris is battling for playing time at the position — and junior Hannah Jones, who was at catcher.
Freshman Melissa Carlisi will pitch and classmate Kianna Adams is proving to be a solid flex player for the Lady Cats, who overcame sub-par regular seasons to reach the state playoffs the past two years.
“We’re in one of the toughest softball sub-regions (7B-4A) in the state with Northwest Whitfield, Heritage-Catoosa, LaFayette, Southeast Whitfield and Ridgeland,” Parker said. “With so many young players, we don’t know what to expect.”
Sarah Hughes, the wife of former Dalton High golfer Matt Hughes, is Parker’s pitching coach — she pitched at Mississippi State — and Brandon Sane will handle the defense.
“I’m excited about the season,” Parker said. “Our girls are dedicated and they want to win.”