Lady Jackets ready for their diamond return
The Denison Lady Yellow Jackets were excited to see what they could following up the best season in program history.
They had set a school record for wins with 21, earned their first postseason victory in 13 years and reached the third round of the playoffs for just the third time.
But the encore they envisioned never materialized and it was completely out of their control.
The opportunity to built on that success with two-thirds of the lineup returning was halted right before district play when the coronavirus pandemic ended the season.
And even though Denison was 6-14 at that point, the Lady Jackets were hoping to write a similar script — put together success in 10-5A play and follow it up with a deep run.
“We have not talked about last year. I felt like last year we talked about the previous year too much,” Denison head coach Jeremy Green said.
Keeping that disappointment in the past comes as Denison opens the season by hosting Aubrey at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night.
“They took full advantage of their off-season,” Green said. “We underachieved so much that they realize it’s unacceptable. They’re eager to get back and show that they’re better.
“Their mentality is different. Their maturity is different. Every part of them is different but in 100 percent a positive way.”
The experience lost in the lineup to graduation is big as center fielder Elizabeth Linwood and catcher Jaci Garvin were four-year starters. Also gone are Keanu Hall and Jacque Mathews.
But the Lady Jackets do bring back more than half of their lineup with four regulars sporting a minimum of three years as a starter. And the holes that remain are expected to be filled by a talented freshman crop.
“Those young girls bring an energy that meshes everyone together,” Green said. “They bring a lot of fun to everything they do.”
Senior Madison Carter is a four-year starter and has seen time at every infield position. She will be at third base for her final season.
“She’s embraced the leadership role on the infield with all the little ones and taken them under her wing,” Green said.
Ashlinn Hamilton enters her third season in the circle and the junior will look to continue to contribute both with her arm and her bat. She was the district Newcomer of the Year as a freshman.
“She’s grown about three inches since last year. She feels good and ready to go,” Green said. “She’s eager to show people last year was a fluke. And I think it’s not just her — it’s all of them.”
Sophomore Kiki Carter and freshman Bella Palmer will also get a chance to pitch as well.
“I can win ballgames with all of them,” Green said. “That’s the plan.”
When they aren’t pitching, Carter will be at second base after starting in right field last spring. Palmer is going be the first baseman.
Besides Hamilton, two other juniors are also entering their third years as starters. Jewel Hiberd spent a majority of last season at third base but will take over full-time duties at catcher, a spot where she has had experience the past two years, while Hannah Grinspan is another Lady Jacket who will be at a different spot. After being the shortstop as a freshman and settling in at second base a year ago, she will take over for Linwood in center field.
“She’s embraced the change,” Green said. “I think it’s a challenge she’s excited for.”
Sophomore Camryn Nixon was a starting outfielder last season but enters this one with an injury suffered during basketball. She isn’t expected back until district play at the earliest. Freshman Autumn Mitchell gets the nod in left field and right field is a battle between seniors Teasia Lewis and Precious Melton.
Katelynn Martinez, a sophomore who got some at-bats last season, could also be in the mix for time in the outfield.
Freshman Maddison Luper takes over at shortstop and classmate Campbell Anderson is an option at either first or designated player, meaning the Lady Jackets could put together an order with a quartet of ninth-graders.
“I’ve got three lineups based on who is going to pitch,” Green said. “I feel comfortable with all the lineups we can put out there.”
In addition to non-district games against Sanger and Melissa, the Lady Jackets will compete in tournaments at Krum, Allen and Bonham before starting District 10-5A play on March 8.
Denison remained with Sherman, McKinney North, Wylie East, Lovejoy and Princeton in the latest realignment while Prosper Rock Hill, a first-year varsity program, and The Colony were added to the district.
What: Aubrey at Denison
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday