New-look Rebels expect same results

Published 6:52 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thorsby will begin its softball season in less than one week without The Clanton Advertiser’s 2008 Player of the Year and Coach of the Year and without two other first-team all-Advertiser selections.

But don’t feel sorry for the Rebels yet, and don’t assume they won’t be able to repeat the success they’ve enjoyed the past two years as the team, without hardly breaking a sweat, won two county tournament and two area tournament championships.

First-year coach Nicole Hilyer is familiar with the program after serving as the assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach for two of the last three years, and Hilyer said she thinks several Rebels are capable of replacing the talent and leadership voids left by departed seniors Sarah Adkins, Hollie Day and Jessica Spearman.

“We’ve got some big holes to fill with the seniors that we lost last year,” Hilyer said. “We’ve said that from the get-go. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The most difficult task might be replacing last year’s best battery, which consisted of Spearman on the mound and Day behind the plate.

Lindsay Pease is an experienced pitcher. Meanwhile, Heather Day is one of two candidates to replace her sister at catcher.

When she’s not pitching, Pease will likely play second base, Adkins’ former position.

Several first-year varsity players will also help. Katie Barnett looks like the No. 2 pitcher, Nicole Barrett has a shot at catching duties, Keri Whitman can play second base when Pease pitches and Kendra Dawson will see time in the outfield.

And basketball star Amanda Hubbard didn’t play softball last year, but her power at the plate has wowed coaches and teammates in practice.

While the newcomers are certainly important, Thorsby’s success this season will hinge mainly on the seniors: centerfielder Mary Gasson, third baseman Kayla Scott and first baseman Haley Smith.

Scott has assumed a leadership role, and her production will be crucial. Scott suffered a season-ending knee injury only a few games into the 2008 season but was one of the team’s best hitters in ‘07.

“We should have a really good defense, and we’ve got some speed,” Hilyer said. “We have a chance to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”