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Even though Deron Bell is in his first season as the John Hardin Lady Bulldogs’ coach, he still feels the pressure is on his youthful squad.
“I think the girls are more nervous than I am,” Bell said.
Bell hopes to bring some stability to a program which had two coaches last season. Corey Yates started the season as coach. After Yates resigned, assistant Brittany Glascock was promoted to interim coach.
The Lady Bulldogs had a hard time getting on a roll. Other than a three-game winning streak from April 24-May 3, John Hardin failed to win consecutive games, finished 10-22 and was mercy ruled by Central Hardin in the 17th District Tournament semifinals.
Two spots Bell isn’t nervous about is the battery as senior Katlyn Geer, a converted third baseman, will be pitching to eighth-grade sister Paige.
“They’ve been working together off and on for the last two years,” Bell said of the Geers. “You could tell by the chemistry they had from Day One when we came out here since November. They know each other so well that you really don’t have to coach them. They know exactly what each other is going to be doing.”
That’s why Bell has Courtney Mulholland. The former Breckinridge County High School and St. Catharine College pitcher is the assistant coach and pitching coach. Bell said Mulholland has helped Geer evolve as a pitcher.
“What I like about Katlyn is her development,” Bell said of the older Geer, who has worked on her changeup and off-speed pitches. “She’s developed a whole lot.”
Eighth-grader Ally Furnish, who pitched a few innings last year, is the backup pitcher, while senior Lexi Wood, the starting center fielder, is the backup catcher.
Sophomore first baseman Taylor Miller will be backed up by sophomore Alyssia Bell-Cooper, a transfer from Georgia who was briefly on the basketball team. Miller was primarily a junior varsity player last season.
Sophomore Bianca Gomez, a transfer from Texas, takes over at second base. Another sophomore from Texas, Christina Meyers, will backup Gomez.
Junior Kaitlyn Embry, a transfer from Breckinridge County, takes over at shortstop. She’s backed up by Wood and Furnish.
Sophomore Channing Ray, a corner infielder last season, takes over at third base. Katlyn Geer could also see time at third when she’s not pitching, although Bell said the versatile Wood could play third, too.
Bell said he’s optimistic about his infield.
“I like everything,” he said. “Their knowledge of the game. Since Day One, the girls have come out excited and wanting to get the job done. They’ve been working hard throughout the winter and getting together on their own time outside of practice. They want to win and they’re eager to win.”
Junior Nawdya Fletcher, a starter on the basketball team, is playing softball for the first time outside of recreation-league play. She was still good enough in tryouts to get the starting nod in right field.
“You couldn’t tell by the she plays out there,” Bell said. “She probably has the strongest arm on the team.”
Wood, who has been a fixture in the lineup since middle school, is the outfield anchor in center field. Senior Brooke Reed, a former third baseman, will be in left field.
Bell said the Lady Bulldogs’ outfield depth include seventh-grader Hayley Mouser, freshman soccer player Kaitlyn Teague and freshman Melanie Haynes.
Senior Brooke Barrow, a former second baseman, will bat leadoff. Barrow was among the area leaders in stolen bases last season.
Despite their troubles of the past, Bell said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Lady Bulldogs snuck up on teams this year.
“We want to be able to compete and we want to be able to reach the echelons that the Central Hardins, the North Hardins and the E’towns have been in,” he said. “It’s been so long, it’s time to put John Hardin back on the map. With the team we’ve got this year, I think we can make a lot of noise. We can be the sleeper of the district – this year.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org