Just as the Cincinnati Reds' first pitch used to annually signal the start of the major league baseball season, it's time for the Monday Morning Shortstop to get the same kind of honor and respect.
No team should be able to start its season until the SS delivers his first words.
I'm kidding, but with the current overlap between basketball and baseball/softball, it's difficult to shift from dribble-drives to driving in runs, from rebounds to RBIs and from double-doubles to just plain doubles so quickly.
As soon as one sport crosses the plate, another enters the batter's box.
So, bear with me if I have a few swings and misses to start the spring.
Here's a crack at the first “cycle” of 2014.
‰West Carter's 5-2 victory over Boyd County last week was likely the Comets' first ever over the Lions. Off to a 5-0 start, also including a win over Lewis County, West Carter looks to be serious about baseball this season under new coach Tim Johnson.
‰Johnson isn't the only new coach in the area this season. Among the others is Russell's Carol Stevens. Stevens coached the Lady Devils from 1995-2005, racking up eight region titles in that period. She is back on the scene after Ron Osborn stepped down due to family obligations.
‰Other first-year head coaches, at his or her particular school, in the 16th Region include Brittany Rose (Elliott County softball), Jack Lykins (Lewis County baseball), Oscar Brewer (Menifee County baseball), Jared Hammonds (Morgan County baseball), Mark Easterling (Elliott County baseball) and Matt Thompson (Fairview baseball).
‰East Carter softball pitcher Morgan Jacobs isn't wasting any time in helping put her team in the 16th Region contender conversation. Jacobs owns a no-hitter and a perfect game, and it's still March! Fellow Lady Raiders pitcher, eighth-grader Montana Fouts, is off to a nice start as well.
‰Rowan County's baseball team went all the way to the 16th Region semifinal round, in which the Vikings dropped a nailbiter to eventual region champion Ashland, last season. With many of its key players back on the diamond, Rowan County may pick up where it left off. It appears as if it has, in fact, as evidenced by a 23-0 rout of Breathitt County to open the season. The Vikings are now 3-0.
‰Greenup County's softball team has steadily become a factor in this region over the last few years. Brooke Johnson is a solid pitcher, plus the Lady Musketeers are getting good production from their bats in the early going. Junior shortstop Madi Greene, for instance, has already smacked a pair of home runs.
‰Cold temperatures, snow and rain haven't affected 57th District teams much. Paintsville, Lawrence County and Johnson Central have played a combined 25 games so far. They're also a combined 21-4.
‰Former Ashland lefties have kicked off their college seasons on the right foot. Just in the first few weeks, Logan Salow earned his first career save for Kentucky, and Sam Hunter notched his first career win for Marshall. Meanwhile, Lawrence County product Chandler Shepherd is also sizzling for Kentucky. The Wildcat junior began the season 5-0 on the mound.
‰Most baseball and softball teams are going south for spring break. Destinations include Myrtle Beach, S.C., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Vero Beach, Fla. "Anything" beach sounds pretty nice at this point.
‰Five-time defending region softball champion Ashland is among the few sticking around here while the rest are building sandcastles between games. The Kittens are playing host to an event involving Cabell Midland (W.Va.), George Rogers Clark and Magoffin County from Thursday to Saturday at home.
Snyder's NEKY Super Seven
1. Ashland (2-0)
2. Lawrence County (8-1)
3. Johnson Central (8-1)
4. Paintsville (5-2)
5. Rowan County (3-0)
6. West Carter (5-0)
7. Boyd County (2-5)
1. Johnson Central (3-0)
2. East Carter (5-2)
3. Raceland (4-0)
4. Greenup County (4-1)
5. Ashland (2-1)
6. Boyd County (2-1)
7. Rowan County (6-2)
The following are the results from a preseason coaches' poll conducted by Boyd County softball coach Geoff Stewart.
Based on coaches' votes, here were the 16th Region's top 15 players and top 10 teams before this season began.
‰Players: 1. Hannah Carter (Russell); 2. Megan Hensley (Ashland); 3. Leatha Reynolds (West Carter); 4. McKenzie Vanover (Ashland); 5. Taylor Wheeler (Boyd Co.); 6. Erica Brewer (Menifee Co.); 7. Brooke Johnson (Greenup Co.); 8. Morgan Mitchell (Rowan Co.); 9. Mallory Powell (Russell); 10. Lora Thompson (Boyd Co.); 11. Sydney Whitt (Ashland); 12. Jordyn Wiler (East Carter); 13. Kira Brown (Fleming Co.); 14. Bri Crooks (Boyd Co.); t15. Kelsey Diller (Raceland); t15. Maddie Kirk (Fairview).
‰Teams: 1. Ashland; 2. Russell; 3. Boyd County; 4. Rowan County; 5. East Carter; 6. Greenup County; 7. Raceland; 8. West Carter; 9. Fleming County; 10. Fairview.
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AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.