Luster Powers and the Middlesboro Lady Jackets have been a fixture in the 13th Region for some time now. Year in and year out, the team is a contender to win the 52nd District and to make a deep run in the regional tournament.
Coming off a 20-10 season a year ago, the goals and expectations are the same — to compete and win.
“We’re young. We’ve got just one senior this year and got a few freshmen that need to step up and play,” said Middlesboro coach Luster Powers. “We’ve got a few juniors, but not a whole lot of experience as far as playing time. We still got to have somebody to step up and take over for the ones we lost last year.
“We lost six seniors, and the younger kids have to step up now. We’ve got high expectations. I think we will be fine. We’ve got a lot of young kids, but they’re working hard and trying to do what we’re asking them to do.”
Last season, the team took a little bit of a back seat to Harlan County. They lost in the district title game 6-2 to the Lady Black Bears, and they were eliminated in the opening round of the regional tournament in a loss to North Laurel.
Middlesboro won the 13th Region All A Classic and earned a return trip to Owensboro. During the state tournament, the Lady Jackets went 2-1 with victories over Campbellsville and Murray.
The Lady Jackets lost several “big sticks” from a year ago with the top of the lineup consisting of seniors Laura Durham, Erica Gambrel, Bailey Hensley and Lauren Spurlock. Kadi Cordell usually hit from the bottom of the lineup, but she garnered several RBIs from that spot.
“Offensively, we lost a lot of big sticks. It’s going to take us a while to fill those, but we’ve got the kids to do it. We’ve got kids that can step up to hit,” said Powers. “We’re struggling a little bit right now, but they’ll be fine. I think we will be OK. I’ve got some kids that can hit. It’s just going to take them a while to adjust.”
This year’s senior is ace pitcher Madison Shields, who spent several nights on the mound for Middlesboro last season. Powers said he expects the same out of her this year as he did last year.
“She’s going to pitch the majority of the games. If I have any time to rest her I will,” said Powers about his senior pitcher. “She was very good tonight (in a scrimmage) against Lee High. She pretty much stopped them, and hit the ball well. That’s what you expect out of your senior leader.
“She’ll lead by example. She’s a gamer. She will stay as long as you need her to. She got a little tired tonight (against Lee High), but she did good. She understands that she needs to work a little harder to get herself in shape to do what she needs to do.”
The Lady Jackets also return several other players that saw starting time last season. Those include Aubrey Sowders, Baylee Woody, Taylor Moyers and Taylor Yoakum among others.
Middlesboro opens the 2017 season at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in a road game against Bell County.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN