McKenzie boasts experienced squad

Published 9:32 am Thursday, February 21, 2013

McKenzie School head coach Ezell Powell is cautiously optimistic.

Powell is preparing to enter his fifth season at the helm of the Lady Tigers’ program with what could be the best team he’s had at McKenzie.

“On paper this is the best group we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “But that’s on paper. It doesn’t mean anything until you execute on the field like you’re supposed to do.”

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Powell is hoping that experience will lead to execution.

The Lady Tigers return all but one player from last season’s squad. This year’s roster includes three seniors and eight juniors, many of who have been playing for the Lady Tigers since they were in seventh grade.

“We’ve got a lot of juniors and seniors, and they have played a lot of softball here at McKenzie,” Powell said. “I feel like on paper we have a team that can go out and make a run. That’s the expectation, but expectations don’t mean anything. You have to go out and play the game. In the past, when we’ve been in close games, we’ve let the pressure get to us, and I think some of that had to do with our players being so young. Our group is more experienced now, and hopefully that will show up in some of those close games with good teams.”

Powell said he believes the strength of this year’s squad will be its pitching staff, which returns ace AJ Sanford.

“It seems like she has been here forever,” Powell said with a laugh. “She’s thrown a lot of games for us, and the team has a lot of confidence when she has the ball.”

Sophomore Ashley Ballard is slotted as the Lady Tigers No. 2 hurler, while junior Kristen Lassister and Greenville High School transfer Whitney Boswell will round out the Lady Tigers’ staff.

“We’ve never had this much depth on our pitching staff since I’ve been here,” Powell said. “I’m excited about it. I’ve been doing this five years and I’ve learned that the more pitching you have the better off you are, and we’ve worked hard to develop our pitching staff. Now we’ll see if it pays off.”

McKenzie is scheduled to open its 2013 campaign Friday against in-county rival Greenville High School in McKenzie. First pitch is slated for 3:30 p.m.