Crutchfield aims to lead VHS forward|[2/18/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 18, 2005

A new coach has brought a new attitude to the fast-pitch softball program at Vicksburg High.

Kori Crutchfield, an assistant last season, takes over the head coaching duties for the Missy Gators this spring.

Vicksburg is coming off an up-and-down season which saw it make the 5A playoffs before exiting in the first round.

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Besides Crutchfield, VHS will have nine new players on its roster.

“I think we’ll be a lot more positive with our attitude and our work ethic,” Crutchfield said. “We’re going to be young but I think our overall leadership is stronger.”

The team has only one senior in outfielder Temika Davenport.

“Temika didn’t play fast pitch last year, but she was an outfielder on our slow-pitch team,” Crutchfield said.

Gone from last year is all of the team’s pitching and most of the offense, including Shannon Arnold who won the team’s hitting award.

“We’re going to have an eighth grader in Kristi Shelby pitching for us. She just started last year, but she played some on the JV team and plays on a tournament team,” Crutchfield said.

“We also have a freshman in JaWanda Bingham who’ll also pitch. She’s played in league and rec last summer.”

The Missy Gators return just four players with varsity experience.

Junior Heather Shelby was set to start last year at shortstop but broke her foot and missed the season. She is back this spring and will be behind the plate at catcher.

Claiborne Bryant saw part-time action and will start at first base. Kaci Flaharty, a freshman, was a part-timer last year and can play either infield or outfield. She will open at short when VHS starts its season Tuesday against Northwest Rankin.

Sophomore Hailey Jones saw action at third base and will be backed up by Amy Harrigill.

The outfield will have Davenport in left, Megan Humphries in center and eighth grader Rebecca Conerly in right. Humphries did not play last year.

The lone spot that is still undecided is at second base.

“It’s a tossup between Kaleigh Trichell and Claire Ray,” Crutchfield said.

Ray is just a seventh grader while Trichell is a freshman.

With just three teams in the division this spring, VHS should make a return to the playoffs.

The first month of the season, though, could be a challenge with tournaments at Warren Central (March 4-5), Pearl (March 12) and Northwest Rankin (March 18-19) on the schedule.