Lady Eagles look for continued success under Hunt's coaching

Staff Writer

Year one at Eupora was about as good as any of the diehard Eagle fans could have expected out of new head coach Amir Hunt.

After struggling to get back to the same stage with a slow pitch state championship in 2015, Hunt got the team back on track. In both the slow pitch and fast pitch seasons in his first year, the Lady Eagles won the district championship. Much of the success was aided by the fact that Hunt had experience as a head coach earlier in his career at Amory, and also because he had been in Eupora for two years already building relationships with the players.

“Being an assistant there, everybody understood me and knew how I was," Hunt said. "We didn’t have to go through a short spell where they have to learn who I was. I had been there for two years so I knew everybody. Our goal every year is to win the division and compete for a state championship and that’s what we did.”

The Lady Eagles earned a district championship in slow pitch by virtue of a late-season tie-breaker against Ethel and they got a first round bye. From there, the fantastic season back to normalcy in Eupora came to an end in the form of a series loss in the second round to Clarkdale.

Hunt wasn’t upset at the loss and his players rebounded nicely by sweeping through Class 2A, Region 2 play in fast pitch. However, he’s hoping they build off of both the successful regular season that they had and the sting of a loss in the playoffs to become a better team.

“You’re going to have to play good teams regardless and we ran up against a good team against Clarkdale,” Hunt said. “I think they went to the south state championship. Lake beat us in fast pitch to put us out and they went to the state title game. We’re OK. I just want to be on the other side of that coin this year.”

Part of the push to change that early round exit was more work during the offseason.

Instead of the one-mile runs that the team completed at practices three times a week during last summer, they bumped it up to two miles this year. Players are stepping up and filling holes left by seniors like Savannah Kilpatrick and Delta Claire Newman.

“We have girls on the bench that could have easily been in the top four or five in that lineup last year," Hunt said. "They have the chance now to step in and contribute,” Hunt said. “I think Jameellah Marshall is going to help us. Bri Davidson is hitting them hard and deep and she’s figured out how to hit slow pitch. Meleah Pogue didn’t play slow pitch last year and she’ll help us a lot this season. Marley Abbott is another one that we can count on to score runs.

“We lost a lot of great players that left, but we’re going to have some really good ones this year that are ready to rock and roll.”

Of course, there are also the known starters that are in place that are also going to be a big deal. Returning are All-Area players Haley Farley and Alley Reed, who flashed the leather defensively and can hit. Patience Bingham is back after a big sophomore year in slow pitch and other starters Addison Mason, Kylie Richardson and Haylee McCrory will be key.

They’ll all be needed early on with teams like Houston, Neshoba Central, Amory and Grenada on the schedule to challenge before Class I, Region 5 play begins with teams like Coffeeville, Ethel, French Camp, McAdams and West Tallahatchie challenging.

There’s also excitement in the air for some facility upgrades around the softball field that Hunt said was a credit to the hard work put in by parents. The old practice field at the home plate entrance has seen dugouts and fences demolished as they’re remodeling the field for further use.

Hunt also said that in the near future there will be a new 25X25 concession stand and a new press box at the field that allows workers more space and the opportunity to see the game as well.

The 2018 slow pitch season is right around the corner with the South Pontotoc Jamboree set to take place on August 4. The Eupora Classic will commence on August 11.