STARKVILLE - When he began his junior year at Starkville High School, Tyson Carter knew the expectation was there for him to become a leader on the basketball team.
WEST POINT - When Dashmond Daniel began his coaching career four seasons ago at West Point High School, he quickly identified the best player on the girls' basketball team.
WEST POINT - Oak Hill Academy senior basketball player Sarah Dill received some encouraging words from her coach Brian Middleton during her junior season.
If nothing else, Danny Crawford has learned patience during his coaching career.
Today, The Dispatch presents its annual All-Area Prep Basketball Players and Coaches of the Year.
SCOOBA -- Kiki Patterson felt doubly blessed Tuesday afternoon.
STARKVILLE -- Ole Miss freshman shortstop Hailey Lunderman wasn't sure what to expect when she started playing Southeastern Conference softball.
Turns out, Lunderman got the hang of things quickly.
In her first season at Oxford, Lunderman leads the Rebels with a .372 average and 73 hits. She has started all 59 games and has fielded at a .961 clip.
In 2011, Ole Miss brought prestige to the state when it played host to the Southeastern Conference softball tournament for the first time.
Ole Miss spent more than $1 million in renovations to prepare its stadium for the eight-team tournament after it had passed on earlier invitations to serve as tournament host. The enthusiasm was dampened, however, when the home team won three conference games and failed to qualify for the event.
This season, the roles were reversed. Mississippi State made the field as the last of the 12 seeds.
STARKVILLE -- Friday was a pretty good day at the office for the Auburn softball team.
After defeating No. 5 seed Alabama earlier in the day, No. 4 seeded Auburn knocked off No. 1 seed and top-ranked Florida 2-1 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament at Nusz Park.
In the summer of 2013, the world of college softball was surprised to learn Clint Myers was leaving the Arizona State softball program to take over as head coach at Auburn.
In eight seasons as head coach of the Sun Devils, Myers had led his alma mater to seven Women's College World Series appearances and two national championships.
STARKVILLE -- LSU senior infielder Bianka Bell has fond memories of watching her older sister, Briana, play softball for Mississippi State.
Now she is making memories at MSU's new field, Nusz Park.
Bell hit a solo home run and teammate Sandra Simmons hit a game-winning two-run shot Friday afternoon to help No. 7 seed LSU beat No. 3 seed Tennessee 3-1 in eight innings in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
STARKVILLE -- Ole Miss senior pitcher Madi Osias looks forward to hanging out with her teammates this weekend.
"There is no school and this is the first weekend all year where we have not had games to play," Osias said. "I will be honest with you, this is going to be a lot of fun. We are going to hang out and bond and just enjoy being with each other.
"It will be a long weekend because there is so much excitement about what lies ahead."
STARKVILLE -- Elantra Cox believes she has always played softball with a level head.
Fortunately for the sophomore left fielder, a lot of the members of the Ole Miss softball team feel that way.
As Ole Miss continues to re-write the school's record book, the level-headed focus will be critical moving forward.
That focus was there Wednesday, as Ole Miss beat No. 15 Georgia 4-2 at Nusz Park for its first victory in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State softball season ended in a less-than-surprising fashion Wednesday night.
Playing before a crowd of 1,436 in the first Southeastern Conference tournament at Nusz Park, MSU committed five errors and fell to No. 4 Alabama 7-5.
STARKVILLE -- Southeastern Conference fans like to beat their chests year round about playing in the best football conference in the nation.
Television personalities Beth Mowins, Michele Smith, and Kayla Braud held a spirited debate Sunday about the merits of Florida's Tim Walton and Kentucky's Rachel Lawson being named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year during the SEC Network's coverage of softball.
STARKVILLE -- Kayla Winkfield called it "a leap of faith."
When Mississippi State hired Vann Stuedeman in the summer of 2011 to reverse the fortunes of its softball program, one of her initial targets was Winkfield, an All-State senior at Giddings High School (Texas).
For most of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A playoffs, New Hope High School had been looking for its offense.
STARKVILLE -- Simpson Academy's baseball season changed in about an hour's time Tuesday night.
Down five runs to Starkville Academy, Simpson Academy scored the final seven runs, including a walk-off home run, to take the lead in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA second-round playoff series.
Cathedral High School senior catcher Zach Flattmann felt he had his best round of batting practice Wednesday night at Trip Carson Field.
Unfortunately for Heritage Academy, Flattmann kept up his hitting display during the game.
Flattmann's two-run home run kick-started the scoring in Cathedral's 6-0 victory against Heritage Academy 6-0 in Game 1 of a best-of-three series in the second round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA playoffs.
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