Allie Lowe and Shiloh Ellis are convinced the Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball team just won”t be a year older this season.
A year ago, the Lady Patriots struggled through a season with an inexperienced and young lineup. But the players matured as the season progressed, and the team played its best game in a season-ending loss to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the district tournament.
With the start of the 2011 season two days away, Lowe and Ellis feel confident Heritage Academy can pick up where if left off and show it will be older, wiser, and better than it was in 2010.
“We have a lot more experience and everybody is working a little bit harder this year and we”re progressing a lot better and we”re doing really well so far,” said Lowe, a junior pitcher/catcher. “There definitely has been a progression this year. Everybody has a lot better attitude about things, and everybody is excited to play.”
Lowe is the only upperclassman on the 12-player team. As the most experienced player, she believes the future is bright for the program. She has seen the confidence level of all of the players grow after an offseason in which the school played in a league in Caledonia. The first test will come at 4 p.m. Friday when Heritage Academy plays at Oak Hill Academy.
Ellis, who will play first base, shortstop, catcher, and center field, also will compete in cross country in the fall. Her busy workload also includes basketball and track and field. With five years experience playing softball, Ellis is primed to help the Lady Patriots take the next step.
“Last year, we played good some games, but I think this year we are closer together and I think we will have a better season,” Ellis said. “I think we are stronger, better, and, maybe, faster than last year.”
Ellis said the loss to MRA, which was the No. 2 team in the state, motivated everyone to come back this year and get even better. With three more seasons to go, Ellis said the players want to set the tone for the future and win at the same time.
Heritage Academy coach Bud Lowe is looking forward to the continued maturation of a team filled with seventh- and eighth-graders that has a better understanding of how to play the game.
“They have come to understand what it takes to win,” said Lowe, who is in his second season. “They went through some hard times last year, but they stayed with it. I think we won three of our last five games last year. MRA beat us last year in the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run.
“They have great attitudes and great team spirit. They get along and really enjoy what they”re doing.”
Lowe said the continued development of Macy Walters and Brooklyn Waldrep and the addition of Bradley Bozeman from Vernon, Ala., will add to the team”s depth. He said Lowe, Ellis, and Anna Hawkins will see time in the circle.
Lowe said it remains to be seen how things will come together, but he already knows what it is like to have a young team, something other coaches will experience this season. He hopes this year will be the one when the Lady Patriots begin to build toward their future.
“We had everybody together the other day and I said, ”We have talked about how young we are and how it is going to get better and you”re going to get older,” ” Lowe said. ” ”But guess what, you”re now a little bit older and we know we”re better, so it”s time to put that to work.” They will.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.