The second season of softball at J.Z. George ended the way most games have the past two years, with the Lady Jaguars on the short end of a 20-1 score against French Camp last week.
J.Z. George managed only one win this season. But nobody was discouraged. Not the players and certainly not their coach Jamie Tucker, who played softball at nearby Carroll Academy.
“It's not discouraging because I know they are in the learning process, the developmental process,” she said.
The Lady Jaguars had only five players return from the first year. “For those five, there has been much improvement,” Tucker said. “The others had never played before this season. I had to teach them fundamentals, how to catch, how to throw, how to bat. They didn't know any of that.
“It has actually been really refreshing seeming them grow. Every game they play, I see something they have improved on.”
When the program was launched last year, Tucker was pretty much starting from scratch. Olivia Carpenter, now a freshman, was the only player with any real experience in the sport. “Maybe three or four of them had played T-ball,” Tucker said. “Olivia had been playing since she was about six.”
Now J.Z. George has a JV team to develop talent for the varsity and Tucker conducts a summer program for the players. “We work out, lift wait and we're on the field at least three times a week.”
Sophomore Laney Clunan is one of the players that improved during the season. She started the opening game on the mound and walked more than 30 batters. “That motivated her to work more,” Tucker said. “Since then, she hasn't walked more than six in a game.”
“My pitching is getting better,” Clunan said. “I have been doing my wrist snaps like the coach told me.” She hopes to participate in a pitching program at Delta State this summer.
“I think we're doing a whole lot better than we did last year,” Clunan said. “We just had to put a foundation down so we could build on it.”
Carpenter has been the team's star, the leading hitter who plays anywhere needed in the field. Against French Camp she came up with the defensive play of the game, a backhanded stab of a line drive that was headed for left field. She also had one of the Lady Jaguars' two hits. Kelcia Stancil had the other hit and the RBI.
In the team's one win, 21-9 against Amanda Elzy, Carpenter was four for four with two singles, a double and a grand slam.
Carpenter has taken on the role of mentor for her less experienced teammates. “I can help them build to be better.”
She also ran on the track team this spring, finishing second in the 400 at the District 3-3A meet. Participating in two sports at the same time has not been a problem, she said. “I can work my schedule around both.”