Yocum’s squad improves greatly

Published 12:08 am Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vicksburg fast-pitch coach Amanda Yocum is one busy person and needs a large calendar to keep straight all of the dates.

She coaches both Porters Chapel’s and Vicksburg’s fast-pitch teams and deals with getting her kids to baseball and softball practice in addition to trying to catch their games.

But there was one event that wasn’t marked on her calendar: an eight-win improvement for her Missy Gators.

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As a result, she is the 2011 Vicksburg Post softball Coach of the Year.

The huge improvement was a surprise, even to her. In 2010, the Missy Gators won three games and struggled with a rebuilt roster with no seniors and a ton of underclassmen.

But this year’s team, while still young, proved that it needed just a little seasoning to cook into a tastier dish that beat archrival Warren Central for the first time since 2007. The Missy Gators finished 10-12, second in Division 4-6A and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Northwest Rankin.

“To be honest, I had no idea that we’d finish at .500 at the end of the regular season with 11 wins,” Yocum said.

She believed strongly in the talented young core of players that took their lumps in a three-win season the year before.

This year, she felt the game time the Missy Gators had gained the hard way would finally pay off.

“I felt like we had some young talent that, with a little experience, would have a better team. We’re a better team, better players.”

The key for the Missy Gators was a strong start. They started the season 4-2 and won all three games decided by two runs or less.

The 2010 edition of the Missy Gators would have likely been rattled. But with a year of experience behind them, the veteran coach started to see her group grow together in a unit with the confidence to pull out some nailbiters.

“Getting off to a good start and winning those tight games really set a tone for the rest of the season,” Yocum said. “We can beat anybody, whether it takes seven innings or jumping out on somebody.”

However, Yocum is not just satisfied with just making it to the playoffs. She and her team were disappointed with losing in a two-game sweep to Northwest in which the Missy Gators were outscored 21-0.

“I’m so disappointed with those two games,” Yocum said. “I wanted us to finish strong, no matter what happened. We didn’t finish as strong that Saturday as I wanted us to. The good thing is we were disappointed with our finish Saturday. I didn’t even have to say anything to them about it. We have the mentality we’re not going to play that way again.”

As for the future, Yocum is excited about the outlook. She loses only one player off the roster and in a three-team division, the Missy Gators are just a series sweep over archrival Warren Central from hosting a first-round series.

Ask Yocum and she believes the best is yet to come for the Missy Gators.

“I really feel like our pitching will be stronger, our players will be stronger,” Yocum said. “I’m excited about the future of this team.”