Photo/Zach Buckley

The Sylva Bay Academy Lady Saints are trying to improve under second-year head coach Terry Phillips, and it looks as if that planning is on track. Sylva-Bay high school is off to a 2-1 start with one loss to Park Place Christian and returned the favor on Monday night beating Park Place 5-1 riding the right arm of senior Lillie Valentine.

“Well, the season is young. We’ve got a young group of kids. Anything can happen at this point,” noted Phillips, “we have two seniors, Lillie Valentine and Gracie White. They’re both captains. I think they will take a stronger leadership role and that has happened over the last couple of weeks.” Valentine is starting pitcher, while White locks down second base duties.

Youth seems to be the story of SBA Fast-pitch, and the Junior Varsity Saints are undefeated so far at 3-0. They have two wins over Park Place and one over Lamar Christian. The JV ladies are led by freshmen Gracie McKee, Heather Cotton, and Isabelle Boyd.

The Saint season and future looks bright, but reality will set soon. They have a tough schedule ahead. They face a larger 3A school East Rankin Saturday at noon, and it does not get easier as the season progresses. “I would say we probably have the toughest district in all of MAIS. You have Newton who is a strong rival, and Brookhaven is becoming a rival for us,” Phillips said of his upcoming district. He also had this to say of how his playoff chances, “Brookhaven and Clinton Christian have enough coming back. Those two could be the ones battling it out in the end. I think we have the ability to not only go to the playoffs but to go deep into the playoffs. I’m not saying we will have it easy, but we are young, and those two teams are seasoned.”

There’s no doubt this area is full of softball talent, and Sylva-Bay wants to be considered in the Fast-pitch conversations. Phillips has been an assistant on a championship team and saw his daughter become one of the best players in the history of Jasper County. He wants to see a championship mentality at Sylva-Bay by saying, “We have super kids, but their biggest problem has been mentality. We have got to get to where when we take the field that we’re going to win this game, and not sit back on our heels hoping it will happen. The ability is there. It’s young and raw, but we have to develop it over the next couple of years.”

(Article written by Zach Buckley)