​​Lady Cyclones Softball 2024 Preview

Published 2:28 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Ron Marvel 

Star Correspondent

Make no mistake about it, the Lady Cyclones lost a lot in the departure of six seniors who provided both talent and steady leadership, but Head Coach Kenneth Hardin has a history of reloading and not rebuilding. This year’s team should follow that same track.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Starting with the infield, Senior Mollie Johnson will work most nights behind the plate, and the recent Milligan University signee is as good defensively as it gets back there. ‘I expect a lot out of her leadership and out of her bat this year,’ Hardin shared. Lela Byrd will work behind the plate when she’s not pitching. Speaking of Byrd, she will serve as the ‘ace’ this year on the pitching staff. She will use the riser as her strikeout pitch and has worked on her curve and peel-drop to keep batters off-balance. The sophomore is already getting looks from colleges.

Lily McDuffie will also see a lot of innings; she is a hard worker, has good spin, and hits her spots well. ‘She can throw as many innings as you need, as often as you need her,’ Hardin explained. When McDuffie is not pitching, she will serve as the primary first baseman. Freshman Mckenna Blackwell will also see time at first. Johnson will also see time on the mound where she can pound the strike zone effectively and gobble up innings if needed. Freshman Addy Campbell will man second base; she has quick hands and moves well to the bag. The shortstop position may have a host of athletes holding down the spot, according to Hardin; depending on the situation and team they are facing. But a rotation of Johnson, Byrd, or Blackwell should be expected. Third base will be held down by sophomore Sadie Williams; she is recovering from a knee injury and is chomping at the bit to play some ball. ‘She is as good as it gets at third, she’s fearless,’ Hardin shared. For her size, Williams has remarkable bat speed and is capable of hitting the long ball at any time.

The outfield could be a game of musical chairs for the Lady Cyclones, particularly in the first part of the season. Senior Emma O’Quinn will anchor the outfield in center field. ‘She tracks the ball well and catches the ball well; she and Mollie have both provided quality leadership so far,’ Hardin explained. Sophomores Piper Bennett and Junior Jozey Reece, along with Grace Whaley, will be vying for innings in the outfield.

Offensively, Johnson will serve as the primary leadoff, with O’Quinn seeing time in the 2-spot. Byrd and Williams will look to provide some pop at the 3 and 4 spots. Positions 5-9 could change each night, but McDuffie will get a good, long look at the 5 spot in the Cyclones lineup.

Strengths: The leadership of Johnson and O’Quinn will keep the mindset of this team at an even keel. Offensively, the combination of Johnson and O’Quinn will do their jobs of getting on base, and the combination of Byrd and Williams may be as tough a 3-4 combination as you will see in this region. The truth of the matter is any Kenny Hardin team will work hard and make very few mistakes. Simply put, you will have to be coachable to get playing time on this team.

Weaknesses: They are young, and the outfield lacks experience; baserunning will be key to this team’s success.

Prediction: 1-4 in the lineup is an absolute terror for any team, and they look to be coming on in the 5-7 spots. If they get production out of the bottom of the lineup, they will produce a lot of runs or use small ball to generate them to back up a very good deep pitching staff. Volunteer has been reallocated to another conference, but 3-A District 1 is still a strong conference, and Tennessee High and their pitching staff will be a tough ask.

What this team lacks in overall experience, they make up for in talent. It may take them a little while to start clicking on all cylinders, but you won’t want to face this team come the first week of May.

Note: The Lady Cyclones will host Happy Valley on April 1st for a night named ‘Folds of Honor.’ It will honor all veterans as they come on the field for the anthem. There will be a car show in the parking lot, and donations will be going back to the Folds of Honor organization.


2023 Record:23-10 (Eliminated second round of the District Playoffs

Key Departures: *Kenidy Harris (All-Conference, All-County signed with Bluefield University) * Ember Jensen (All-Conference, All-County) Cheyenne Poiroux (All-Conference, All-County) * Maely Ingram (All-Conference, All-County signed with Cleveland State Community College)