Lady Blue Devils focus on pitching

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By Robby O'Daniel

As to what position she plays, Jellico High School softball senior Taylor Hamblin says she plays wherever Jellico head coach Nancy Douglas needs her.

It’s the kind of team-first mentality Hamblin brings to the game.

“I think we’ll have a really good team this year,” Hamblin said. “It’s just we gotta get our heads in the game, and we’ve gotta get used to the game and work as a team. But I feel like we can achieve a lot.”

She has played softball since age 4, and she estimated she has seen time at catcher since sixth-grade, she said.

“I love the game, everything about the game, the pace of the game. I just love it, and the adrenaline you get during it is the best,” Hamblin said.

Douglas called seniors Hamblin and Autumn Creekmore true leaders.

“Taylor stepped up, carried a lot of the weight that most seniors, she does all the, as far as announcing what they’re going to wear, when they’re supposed to be there, she’s really taken a really good stand as far as letting these girls know that she’ll help them out anyway she can, but we need to work hard,” Douglas said. “But Autumn’s powerful. She’s been with us for four years.”

So has Hamblin, Douglas said.

“They’ve been dedicated players,” Douglas said. “Even when things were kinda spread out and we were weak at times, they stuck with things. And Taylor’s worked on pitching, not her position she’d rather be at, but she said if she’s needed there, that’s what she’ll do.”

Hamblin praised Douglas.

“She’s great,” Hamblin said. “She’s been my coach forever, and I love Nancy. She’s, in my mind, one of the greatest coaches because no matter how our team’s doing, she believes in us, and she backs us full-hearted.”

With just three seniors and no juniors, the Lady Blue Devils are a young squad this year.

“We’ve got a lot of newcomers,” Douglas said. “I think we’ve picked up some speed, some talent as far as being athletic but not playing the game of softball a whole lot. But I think those girls will develop into some real good players. We’ve got a young team. … No juniors, right now we’re holding our own as far as pitching. These girls have been working hard during the offseason, working on their pitching, so I’m anxious to see how we’re going to do this year.”

One freshman that stands out is Cheyenne Baird.

“We got one freshman that’s probably got more experience as far as playing softball, played some volleyball, didn’t play basketball but has really worked hard for us, is going to pitching lessons and things like that, Cheyenne Baird,” Douglas said. “Real good little athlete, good kid, makes good grades, most of these girls, I think, academically are pretty far up the ladder.”

Hollie Seibers provides a power bat, Douglas said.

“I think this year, she’s gained some confidence,” Douglas said. “She’s gained more strength, more power. We’ve been in the weight room, so I’m hoping that’s going to help out some.”

The Lady Blue Devils host Scott High to start the season on Monday, with varsity first pitch slated for 5 p.m.