Gary Ivy has always been quick to point out just how young his Oak Grove Lady Warrior softball program has been the last few seasons. Regardless, they’ve consistently done more with less experience, and this past year was no different.
With just two seniors and one junior on their roster, Ivy’s Lady Warriors captured the Region 5-6A title on the way to a 20-6 record, making it to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“A lot of teams would’ve liked to be where we were at the end,” said Ivy. “We started off ok in the playoffs, but ran into a buzzsaw right away with Harrison Central. They have a lot of tradition and experience of going to the state championship on their side.”
For leading Oak Grove to that point and to another successful season, Ivy has been named our Sports601 Hattiesburg-Area Softball Coach of the Year.
“It’s something that you don’t expect. I’m just glad to have it,” Ivy said of the honor. “It’s a tribute to my assistants and our players that we had to be able to get something like that. I don’t play. We try to get them in the right position and teach them what they need to know. Ultimately, we get our reward for what our kids can do.”
Offensively, with underclassmen like Alex Perren, Corinthians Stewart, Ashja Walker and Hannah Picazo leading the way, the Lady Warriors averaged around six runs a game.
But Ivy believes their pitching and defense were most responsible for their success. Ryannne Hornsby, an 8th grader, was the team’s pitching ace and helped the Lady Warriors limit their opponents to three runs per game. Defensively, they had a team fielding percentage of .926, committing an average of only one error every game.
“We had some really good pitching performances from time to time. I think that our defense overall kept us in games,” said Ivy. “There were games earlier in the year where we won one-run ballgames, because we made great defensive plays and took away opportunities from other teams.”
Now, with the 2018 season behind them, the Lady Warriors are already planning for bigger and better things in 2019.
“We had our little banquet, and I congratulated every one on the season we had and reminded them that we have one goal at the beginning of the year,” said Ivy. “Our main goal is to get to the state championship.
“We do have a lot coming back. We need to find a few extra pieces to fit in there with them and just keep getting better.”