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Lady Eagles set for first fast-pitch season

Candy Thames hits a pitch thrown through a pitching machine Friday at the Culkin Athletic Complex. Porters Chapel will field a fast-pitch team for the first time in school history this year. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[08/13/01] When fast-pitch softball was introduced to Warren County’s high schools in 1999, all of the local teams took their lumps before finding some success last season.

Now, it’s Porters Chapel Academy’s turn.

The Lady Eagles open their first season of fast-pitch Monday at 5 p.m. against Central Hinds a traditional power at the Culkin Athletic Complex.

“I’m anxious to see how we’re going to do on Monday, whether we’ll get any hits or not. But other than that, I’m just ready to see a game instead of practice,” PCA coach Liz Gullett said.

PCA, which has no softball field of its own, will play all of its home games at Culkin. Gullett and PCA athletic director Bubba Mims, who coaches several Culkin youth teams, worked out a deal with the association to host the games.

Culkin doesn’t have a youth softball program, but took the dirt off the pitchers’ mound of an 11-12-year-olds’ baseball field to convert it into a high school softball field.

“We looked at it as an opportunity to help the girls and help the community,” said Culkin president Bill Jones. “It’ll help us make some money and give them a place to play. I think it’ll be a win-win situation.”

PCA has had a slow-pitch team for several years, but only about half of its players have fast-pitch experience. The switch the same one Warren Central, Vicksburg and St. Aloysius struggled with in their inaugural seasons promises to make this season a tough one.

“It’s going to be hard. Some of the teams we’re playing are really good and have been together forever,” sophomore catcher Amy Rutledge said. “We have a bunch of experienced players that are helping the younger players, but it’s hard when you’re fielding a team with a bunch of people that haven’t played before.”

The players are taking an optimistic approach. Instead of focusing on wins and losses this year, success will be measured by their improvement.

“This is just a learning season,” junior second baseman Lindsey Webb said.

Gullett said she and assistant coach Steve Angel tried to keep their players’ expectations realistic while keeping their spirits about the future high.

“I didn’t put them down, but I didn’t want them to expect a championship either,” Gullett said. “We’re going to take some lumps.”

There should be a few bright spots, though. The team has several pitchers with fast-pitch experience, including Courtney Angel and WC transfer Betsy Bryan, and there are no seniors.

“I wouldn’t say wins and losses,” Rutledge said when asked what a successful year would be. “Our goal this year is just to get ready for next year.”