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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Young NC leans on veterans

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Nelson County Softball Preview

By Darren George

With the fast-pitch softball season underway, Nelson County is ramped up in hopes of getting to the region and beyond.

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Nelson County (3-4, 2-1 dist.) returns a young cast of players, but will look for leadership out of its two seniors.

Catcher Katrina Boone and infielder Jessica Benbow will both be expected to step up during their final high school season and lead this squad on and off the field.

“We will have to play with intensity and emotion,” Boone said. “I want to lead this team with my hitting, but I want to work on my throw downs and I’d love to win a district championship.”

Benbow says she wants the team to be more aggressive this season and take advantage on every play.

“We must be more positive,” she said. “We need to develop more team chemistry if we want to advance deep into the postseason. I would love to have this team produce more speed, and I feel our defense will be a key component as well.”

Although the Cardinals have had some struggles out of the gate, the team’s confidence and spirits are still running high, having notched two district wins against only one defeat in the early weeks of the campaign.

“The season is still young, and I think we can still make a push for the district title,” Nelson County coach Chris Mattingly said. “We only lost by a run last year to Bethlehem in the district finals, and we had a runner on third and our best hitter at the plate, and it didn’t fall our way, but we were right there.”

The Cardinals advanced into region play last year, but fell to LaRue County in the opening round.

“We have been hitting the ball really well,” he said. “We have some good players, and they will come around. For the past three years, we have only had two seniors, but it’s still early and our younger players are gaining more and more experience after each game.”

Sophomore hurler Bailey Parsons will get most of the innings in the circle, with junior Lauren Yaste moving over from shortstop to spell her at times.

Parsons was recently selected to be one of the top prospects from the 5th Region, an honor that was voted on by the coaches in the region.

“Again, we are extremely young,” Mattingly said. “After our numbers split with (Thomas Nelson), we are looking to pick things up and we are making progress.”

Mattingly says his club will be looking to do some different things on the bases, and will also mix things up at the plate. The Cardinals’ run production will depend on the performances of Boone and leadoff hitter Hallie Mattingly, who mans center field.

Nelson County is returning only four starters from a season ago, and will add two freshmen to their act this year, including Caroline Boone at third base.

“We are having some new kids learn some new positions,” he said. “It’s been tough trying to have practices with the kind of weather we have been having. But, we are learning, and I look forward to seeing what this group can do this year.”

Mattingly takes over sole control after sharing head coaching duties with John Rogers in recent seasons, and is joined by Smiley Edelen and former player Haley Hardin, who he says has really helped this team grow.

Nelson County grabbed an 8-4 win over John Hardin on Thursday. The Cardinals are back in action Monday at Spencer County.