LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Last season, the South Laurel Lady Cardinals finished 29-8 with a district and region title before falling in two games in the state tournament.
If the Lady Cards are to make a return trip to the state, they will have a lot of holes to fill with the loss of six players from last season’s squad.
“We are replacing six starters from last season,” coach James Burns said. “Five graduated and Bailey Miller is having surgery and will miss her entire senior season. We will be very young but talented I have a group of girls that see the opportunity to play varsity and have been working hard to get that chance.”
Pitching looks to be a strong point for the Lady Cards, led by two time all-state player Hagan Burns. Burns will be joined in the circle by Destiney Salva. Those two will also rotate at first base.
Burns feels like defense will also be a strength of this year’s team
“Our infield and catching will be very strong,” Burns said. “I also believe our outfield will be a strength by tournament time, once our players get some experience. We also have some very good hitters. We are pretty balanced.”
The infield will have Madyson Morris at second, Brittany Vandeventer moving from third to short, and Makenzie Powenski taking over at third. The outfield will have all new starters with Hailey Shelby in center, Kaylee Norvell in left, and several combinations Burns could go to in right with Kaylyn Perkins, Clarke Wyatt and Leslie Dixon. Nell Murray will handle the catching duties behind the plate.
“Our lack of experience will be our weakness,” Burns said. “We have only three full time starters returning. The new starters are talented and I believe in them. They will get better an better but may struggle at times. We also lack depth.”
Last season the Lady Cards had a very powerful hitting line-up capable of hitting the ball out of the park at any time. Gone are power hitters like Amber Hyde. C.J. Johnson, Megan Smith and Chelsea Wemes. This season Burns said his team is faster and will play a little more small ball.
“We have one of the fastest teams in the area,” Burns said. “We plan on being very aggressive on the bases. We have also been working with some players slapping the ball. A good slapper puts a lot of pressure on the defense and is hard to get out. It should be fun to watch.”
Burns feels like the 50th District will be very competitive.
“Corbin returns all its starters from last season including 2A player of the year Hannah Hart,” Burns said. “Whitley County is well coached and will be able to beat anyone on a given night.” As for the region, the two Laurel teams have dominated in year’s past, but Burns said the rest of the region keeps getting better every year.
“This year the region should be a fun race to watch,” Burns said. “South, North Laurel, Corbin, Clay County, Harlan County, Middlesboro and Whitley County will have strong teams.”
The coaching staff remains unchanged for South Laurel.
“Kenneth Fisher, James Finley and I have coached together many years through travel ball, middle school and now high school. Our program is fortunate to have them. They are very knowledgeable and work well with the girls.”
Burns is looking forward to coaching the team this season.
“This team is working very hard,” Burns noted. “I have several players that will ask to stay after practice for some more swings or more fly balls or grounders. They are enthusiastic and genuinely love to play this game. I can’t wait. Their energy fires me up.”