The Meridian Star
Newton County captured its seventh fast-pitch state championship, outscoring defending champion Houston 26-3 in two games. The Cougars took home the title despite not having a single senior on their roster –– still, few were surprised.
The seventh championship gives Newton County more fast-pitch titles than any team in the state. However, that success is assumed every time the Lady Cougars put on their uniforms.
Expectations are just higher in Newton County, where girls grow up dreaming of donning the orange and blue before they even hit grade school.
“We don't even have to say a word about it,” Newton County head coach Justin Chaney said of the Cougars' tradition. “From kindergarten, there are itty bitty girls running around. I tell my girls, you were once that young girl, and you couldn't wait to be a Lady Cougar.
“It's a tradition, it's rich and it makes my life a lot easier.”
However, Chaney will be the first one to say wanting success is just half the battle.
Newton County practices don't simply consist of hitting the ball around the infield. Instead, Chaney puts his girls through, what he calls “mass chaos” pressure, screaming and hollering at the girls while working them on fast-paced during drills. Chaney's theory, if the girls make it through chaos, they'll be just fine by game time.
“We just work so darn hard,” Chaney said. “I put a little pressure on them in practice, and when they get to the game, they are ready. I tell them all the time, practice ain't fun. When you get to the game, that's what's fun. They just go out and play.”
While every state championship is sweet, Chaney said this year's meant a little more to his girls. Houston swept Newton County in the 4A state championships last year, and when he told his team they'd have a shot at redemption, he could see they were ready.
“From the time I told them we were playing Houston, you could see the look in their eyes,” Chaney said. “They were a sad bunch of girls last year. I think it motivated them, no doubt.”
Chaney said what makes this team special is the unity his girls bring to the diamond every day. No matter the situation, he said he could count on any of his girls to step up and play their part.
“From one through nine, even the people who were role players, they did whatever it took to win a ballgame,” Chaney said. “That's hard, because a lot of times you have a girl who doesn't want to bunt, or doesn't want to do something. This bunch will do anything you ask them to do, and you can tell by the way they play the game.”
With no departing players, Newton County will most likely enter the 2014 season as the early favorite to repeat as champions. However, that won't change anything for Chaney, he's already itching to get back on the practice field.
“I'm going to give them two weeks off,” Chaney said. “Then it will be back to work.”