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After falling in the district tournament last season, the Velma-Comet softball team is ready to take the next step in 2013.
With a balance of experience and youth – the Lady Comets boast four seniors, three sophomores and four freshmen – V-A enters the year with plans for last year’s juniors to lead and its younger core to rise to the occasions.
“We’re hoping to go a little further in the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of good senior leadership and some sophomores who played as freshman so those are players who can lead too,” head coach Lacy Darity said. “We’re a pretty young group, but those young players have experience. I’m looking at a group where any of the 11 can be out there and contribute for us at any time.”
The team lost 2012 graduates Kylee Saville and Shalyn Files, two major cogs in the team’s offense last season. Saville hit .357 and led the team with 24 runs scored while Files batted .389 and knocked in a team-best 16 RBIs last year.
But the Lady Comets offer a handful of candidates to replace that offense with its new crop of seniors and returning players. Senior Jesse Anderson, the team’s starting left fielder, hit .300 last year and senior catcher Sidney Lewis ranked third on the team in 2012 with an OPS of .771. Sophomore Nikki Wright, the team’s number one starter, will also serve as V-A’s clean up hitter, bringing power to the plate after finishing last season as the team’s only player to hit a home run.
The Lady Comets will also find that blend of veterans and newcomers in the field. With Lewis at catcher, Wright on the mound and senior Jordan Layn penciled in to start at second base, V-A is set up the middle. Anderson brings a veteran presence out in left and senior Lyndsie Carroll will spend time playing in right field.
“We may move some people around, try some people at different positions, but the seniors are going to be in the line up consistently,” Darity said.
That’s not to say that V-A’s newest class of freshmen won’t get their chances. In fact, many of them look to start. Carly Richardson will share the pitching load with Wright while starting in the infield, Mikayla Wilson will spend time at shortstop and Kendall Brown is expected to start in center field. She’ll also use her speed as V-A’s lead off hitter.
Velma-Alma made the most of it summer, spending a month in the Marlow summer softball league and recently winning both its games at last weekend’s Duncan Festival. As seasons change, Darity knows that experience only means good things for the freshmen’s prospects this year.
“Hopefully it’s gone a long ways to build their confidence and slow the game down for them,” Darity said. “Coming in as a freshman and playing a big role can be overwhelming, but they’re were able to get their feet wet and become comfortable with what’s going to happen by playing this summer.”
Expectations are high for Wright, who started for Velma-Alma as a freshman on the mound.
“She’s gotten a lot better as the summer has gone on and we know we can count on her,” Darity said. “This is an exciting year for us with her and Carly pitching.”
The season kicks off for the Lady Comets against a local opponent today, as they will travel to face Marlow at 5 p.m.. Darity listed Central High, Sterling and Class A competition in the Lawton area as teams for V-A to look out for this year.
“We have to compete with those teams,” Darity said. “Even if we don’t face them early on, they’ll be waiting for us in the playoffs.”