By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s softball team will open its season at home Wednesday, March 4, with a Mountain Six Conference game against Hendersonville.
Morgan Dillard, a former assistant coach, is preparing for her first season as head coach.
“Practice has been pretty good,” Dillard said. “We have eight girls on varsity so far and 12 on JVs, and we’re probably getting about four more from basketball. We’ll have about 25 total.”
The program has not had a JV team the past two seasons.
“We’re just thrilled to be able to have that feeder program and mold them into varsity players,” Dillard said.
Former players Rachel Matthews (varsity assistant) and Mary Deitz (JV head coach) are on the coaching staff.
“I’m really excited about the season,” Dillard said. “We’re trying to get a little more school spirit and community involvement. One of the things we’ve been saying is ‘believe in the hype.’ We’ve got to get our school and community on board.”
All-conference players returning from an 8-15 team that finished fourth in the Mountain Six Conference are junior infielder Katie Allison, sophomore infielder Kennedy Stewman and sophomore pitcher Alannah Hopkins. Dillard said Stewman and Allison likely will see time pitching as well.
Paige Monteith is the only senior returnee. Also back are juniors Kaitlyn Richmond and Carisa Tilley and sophomore Mayson Lee.
They are joined by sophomore transfer K.J. Ammons, who played in the local middle school program through eighth grade.
Other returnees who are expected to join the team after basketball season ends are junior Ashton Buchanan and sophomore Riya Patel.
“No spot is guaranteed,” Dillard said. “I’m going to put the girls where I need them at that time.”
The schedule is as follows:
March 4 – Hendersonville; 5 – Asheville; 7 – McDowell and Crest at Crest; 10 – at Pisgah; 17 – Hendersonville; 19 – Murphy; 20 – at Brevard; 24 – at East Henderson; 26 – Robbinsville; 27 – Franklin; 30 – at Murphy; 31 – Pisgah.
April 3 – at Pisgah; 7 – at Hendersonville; 16 – Robbinsville at Young Harris, Georgia; 21 – Brevard; 24 – at Brevard; 28 – East Henderson.
May 1 – at East Henderson; 5 – at Franklin; 7 – Franklin.