Lee, Lady Bengals ready for challenges, season
By Tom Dodge
The Lady Bengals have been on the verge of a breakout season and new head coach Andy Lee is hoping 2009 is the year.
“These kids are really working hard, they have a great work ethic, dedication and great team chemistry,” Lee said. “They are doing really well and I think it is going to pay off for them.”
The Lady Bengals are 59-71 since the program began four seasons ago and suffered their worst year in 2008 when the girls finished 15-29.
In his last season at Hinds Community College, Lee finished 2008 with a 34-20 record, won the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges Central Division.
He led Hinds to a second- place finish in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament and compiled a 89-65 record at the Mississippi school.
“I am very excited about this season and the future of the program,” Lee said. “This will be a very interesting season.”
Sophomore Hannah Latiolais (Cecilia) is the top returning pitcher for the Lady Bengals and Lee said he is expecting a good year from her in the circle.
“She is more of a finesse pitcher as she changes speed, hits her spots and competes well,” the coach commented.
Sophomore Salea Willoughby (Patterson) and freshman Stacey Sutton (East St. John) will also see plenty of action for the Lady Bengals.
“Stacey throws fairly hard and when she wants to, she can be really affective,” the coach continued. “Salea is a lefty pitcher who can mix things up really well.”
Lee said the season- opening tournament at Galveston College tournament will be a good test for his team as they face five teams in two days.
“All the pitchers will get their chance early,” he said of the competition against Western Texas, Howard College, Temple College, McLennan and Seminole on Feb. 6-7.
Lee said there are four catchers battling for action behind the plate including sophomores Kelli Jo Soileau (Eunice), Chasity Fontenot (Patterson), Rhea Person (Barbe) along with freshman Jennifer Moneaux (Delcambre).
“Catcher is a position where you can alternate in doubleheaders and they will all get a shot to play,” Lee said. “This fall every time a particular pitcher pitched I used the same catcher.”
St. Edmund product Meredith Himel returns at first base for her sophomore season, joined by freshman Catherine Danos (Central Lafourche) and several others who may share time at the base.
Freshman Hayley Sanchez (Starkey Academy) is slated to start at second base, while sophomore Lindsey Babin will anchor the shortstop position.
“Hayley is a left-handed hitter with very good pop,” the coach commented, “and she runs pretty well.
“Lindsey could be our lead-off batter and hopefully set the tone,” the coach said of Babin. “She has pretty good wheels, good instincts and a really good arm.”
At third base, the battle is between sophomore Kim St. Amant (H. L. Bourgeois) and freshman Chasity Gary (Comeaux).
“Every day at practice, Kim hits five or six out,” Lee said of St. Amant’s power at the plate. “She has the potential to be a 10 or 12 home run hitter this season. She is a really good power hitter.
“Chasity has a really good stick and can field the ball well,” he said. “She is control.”
The outfield includes freshmen Ashley Parr (Comeaux), Rachel Tripp (Denham Springs) and sophomore Briget Waller (Vidalia).
Lee said he is impressed with Parr’s work ethic as she has become one of the leaders of the team.
“She comes to practice every day with a good attitude as gets everybody around her to work hard.”
Other players on the team include sophomores Candance Fairchild (Vandebilt Catholic) and Kayla Saeeadet (Brusly) along with freshmen Sarah Mahavier (Lake Dallas), Cheri Sammis (Lafayette) and Megan Updyke (Westwood).
Lee said he is hopeful the team can get hot at the right time and earn a berth in the regional, make it to the championship game and advance to the world series.
“We have a very tough schedule beginning with the Galveston tournament,” the coach said. “If we can pick up one or two wins, that will show us where we stand early on.”
The home opener is Feb. 10 against Bossier Parish Community College.