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Brown gets East Webster deep into playoffs again

May 20, 2012

East Webster's Meleah Brown was chosen Starkville Daily News Fastpitch Coach of the Year for 2012. (Submitted photo)

Meleah Brown was coming off a great first year as the head coach of the East Webster High School fastpitch team.

The Lady Wolverines made it the State championship series and finished second place in Class 2A.

There were high expectations heading into Brown's second year, but there was going to be a big hole to fill.

That didn't seem to phase Brown and she was selected as Starkville Daily News Coach of the Year.

Brown lost her best player, Swayze Hollenhead, to graduation. Hollenhead is now playing with Mississippi State.

"Last year, I had a pitcher who could throw pretty hard and she threw strikes," Brown said. "Swayze really wasn't a pitcher but she was so athletic she could do whatever I wanted her to do. Not only was she a good pitcher, she was a good leader. Throughout the offseason, I thought about who was going to be my leader."

This year Brown decided to utilize the strengths of her focus on those.

"Last year we focused on pitching because that's what we had," catcher Autumn Frost said. "This year we focused more on defense and hitting."
Brown had huge goals in mind going into the season, but she wanted to take them one at a time.

"I wanted to take it by baby steps," Brown said. "My first goal is to win district. We had a tougher district this year. We knew it was going to be a battle every single game. Whenever we didn't win the district, our goal was to make playoffs. We made the playoffs and then our goal was to win North State. I never overlooked one step before the other, and of course our ultimate goal was to win State. I just didn't want the girls to overlook the little things we had to do to get there."

The Lady Wolverines finished the year with a 13-14 record and a loss in the third round of the playoffs.

This year was a little different for the Lady Wolverines. Near the end of last school year, a tornado swept through the area and damaged East Webster High School in Cumberland. The students and faculty had to finish the 2011 school year and all of this past year at the old campus of Wood Junior College in Mathiston, about a 15-minute drive.

"It was a difficult transition," Brown said. "They have to go from the junior college to the high school. It's just so quiet over there. It is much more exciting when there are other sports going on. Being able to practice and get up for practice is the biggest thing the girls have had to overcome."

Maybe Brown's biggest test was Hatley's pitcher Lesley Hudson. The Lady Wolverines and Lady Tigers faced off in the third round of the playoffs.

Brown took it upon herself to get her team prepared for what they might face in Hudson.

"I knew she was going to throw fastballs and change ups a lot, more than any pitcher we have seen all year," Brown said. "To prepare them, I got out there and pitched live batting practice to them because I was a pitcher in high school and junior college. Constantly fastballs, change ups, fastballs, change ups. Seeing that all week before we faced Hatley helped the girls."

Frost likes the fact that she has a coach that can relate to the players and add a unique perspective.

"Lesley had a fantastic change up," Frost said. "Coach Meleah kept throwing us change up after change up and I guess it paid off. It is definitely an advantage because not everybody has that."

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