PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 4, 2013

Local softball teams heading into district play

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

— Softball teams around the area have swung into district play recently. Three local teams are looking to make their marks this season, including one with a newly minted head coach off to a good start.

Nederland (13-5, 1-0 in District 20-4A) is playing with its fourth coach in three seasons. After Sissy Yeaman stepped down to serve as an assistant principal at the high school after the 2011 season, Heather Holloway was hired from Shelbyville. Halfway through the 2012 season, Holloway was reassigned in the district and former softball head coach and current football offensive coordinator Monte Barrow took over the team as interim head coach.

Barrow then led the Lady Bulldogs on a blistering finish to the season, winning eight straight games, grabbing a district title and beating Crosby in the bidistrict round of the playoffs.

This summer, Nederland hired Will Mallette away from Deweyville, where he went 92-43 in five seasons and won back-to-back district championships in 2010 and 2011.

Mallette hit the ground running this season with a young Nederland team. The Lady Bulldogs lost a huge bat in catcher Emily Nolan to graduation, but have seen younger players like junior pitcher Makayla Kelly and shortstop Savana Guidry pick up the slack.

Kelly has already hit two home runs and is batting .290 with 10 walks in 42 plate appearances this season. Guidry is hitting .367 with a home run, two triples, three doubles, six steals and a team-high 21 runs scored this season.

Kelsey Beard leads the team in batting average with a .455 batting average, a .492 on-base percentage and a .636 slugging percentage in 59 plate appearances. Beard has a team-high eight doubles and a triple. Nicole Matise has provided the pop in Nederland’s lineup with 10 extra-base hits and a team-high 18 RBIs with a .712 slugging percentage.

Kelly (7-3) has pitched the bulk of the team’s games so far, striking out 38 in 57 1/3 innings with a 2.69 ERA. Kelly also picked up the victory last Tuesday when Nederland opened district play with a 16-3 win over Vidor. The Lady Bulldogs will host Livingston at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Port Neches-Groves (10-6) also opened 20-4A play with a victory last week, beating Lumberton 5-0 on the road. The Lady Indians started out slowly this year as they recover from losing three-year starter Brittnee Moore on the mound.

However, PN-G had a great showing at the Cy-Fair tournament last weekend, winning the consolation bracket championship by beating Cy-Creek and going 4-2 on the weekend.

In Moore’s place slides Maci Dean, who has gotten the bulk of PN-G’s starts on the mound. The Lady Indians are also led by senior shortstop Ricki Gilbert, catcher Ryanne Lunceford and outfielder Taylor Thompson.

Last year, the Lady Indians were state ranked thanks to a nice preseason run. But, PN-G ran into problems in district play and fell to the No.4 seed from 20-4A. The Lady Indians did extend a playoff streak that has seen them make the postseason every year since 1997.

But, those same Lady Indians fell to Barbers Hill, who made it to the regional quarterfinals before falling to regional finalist Little Cypress-Mauriceville.

PN-G figures to be battling LC-M, Nederland and Vidor again for a playoff spot. The Lady Indians will get their first taste of that competition Tuesday when they travel to LC-M for a 7 p.m. district game.

Port Arthur Memorial head coach Leah Johnson has opened her second season at the helm and is still hoping to see some positive results. However, the Lady Titans have a titan joining the district this season.

The Deer Park softball team won the 2012 Class 5A state title and is now ranked No. 1 in the 2013 state polls. The Lady Deer joined Memorial’s District 21-5A in realignment and figure to be the favorites for the district title.

Memorial will be led by the speedy senior Crystal Sallier, along with Jhayla Seales, Aaliyah Howard, Vivianna Gonzalez and Leslie Jacquet.

The Lady Titans will play at Deer Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday.