RUTLEDGE – Even though he is in his first season as the new head softball coach at Grainger High School, Ben Williford has big expectations for the Lady Grizzlies.
“I asked this team what our goal was and they said it was to win the district. That’s where we will start and see where it goes from there,” Williford said.
With traditional power Greeneville High School in the district, that will not be easy, but Williford says he wants to get Grainger to where the Lady Greene Devils are now.
“I want this program to be the one eventually that everyone is worried about. We want to be the team everyone wants to beat and I think we can get there in the future and that starts this year,” Williford said.
Williford takes over a program that is young but not devoid of talent. Grainger has four seniors in this year’s class: Suzanne Barker, Brooklyn Copley, Karlei Hodge and Cierstin Phifer. One of the main components to any success the Lady Grizzlies will have this season will be the play of Copley.
“Brooklyn is going to do her thing. I can give her 10 pitches and I feel she could hit eight of them out,” Williford said of his senior power hitter.
The junior class features Grainger’s top pitching prospect in Alison Byrd. Williford says that not only is Byrd good with her pitches but also has a stable of talent surrounding her if the opposition does manage to put the ball in play. “Everyone behind her can make a play to change the game even if other teams get a hit. We are going to lay out and go get it,” Williford said.
Catelin Newman is the other junior on the team and the sophomore class consists of KatiAnn Dossett, Nikki Ireson, McKenna Kee, Lacy Mallicoat, Celsey Phifer and Macey Sprangler. The freshman class includes Destanee Davis, Abigail Harvey, Gladys Hixon, Amanda Kledzik and Jaylee Nickel.
Williford said he has especially been impressed with the play of Nickel in pre-season practice. “She has shown a lot of power at the plate to just be a freshman. I haven’t worked with her for very long but her foot work is good and she has a very strong arm.”
“Expectations are high because this is a very athletic team,” the new Lady Grizzly boss said. “My nature is to expect to win every game so we will see how things go this year.”