Meridian Star

April 30, 2014

Lady Trojans on familiar ground

By Reed DeSalvo \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     When the Northeast Lauderdale High School softball team travels to Florence High School today for its doubleheader matchup at 5 p.m. in the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs, it will be with an eerie feeling of emotion for Lady Trojans’ coach Sean Gerald.

    Gerald, who has coached Northeast the past two seasons, is the former head coach of the Florence softball program.

    "This is going to be my first time coming back there and sitting on the visitor side," Gerald said. "I graduated from Florence, my wife did as well. My kids went there. We have tons of friends and family there, the players' parents are our friends and we keep in touch."

    But make no mistake about it, Gerald’s entire focus rests solely on his squad after emerging with a doubleheader sweep over his former team.

    "I want these Lady Trojans to come and take this doubleheader," Gerald said. "It's going to be a fun atmosphere, and I'm sure we'll get some heckling being on the Trojans side. But that is who we are, we are Trojans now."

    Yet Gerald recognizes that the victories won’t come so easy, as his squad is squaring off against a formidable opponent in Florence.

    "They're going to be tough," Gerald said. "They've got a little pop in the bats. They have a good left handed pitcher that can move the ball inside and out, and they have a little speed.

    "That'll present some problems for us. But with our catcher (Kaytee Nelson) it is going to be tough to run on her."

Much of the responsibility for the first round matchup will fall on the arm of junior pitcher Brittany Baty, who the team has relied heavily upon all season.

    "Everything starts with our pitching and catching," Gerald said. "Our pitcher (Baty) is second to none. She has been lights out this year. "There's no way teams can get ready for her," Gerald said. "You can't simulate that speed. You can try on a pitching machine, but that's different. You know it's a strike every time, and then you factor in her change up, drop ball and curve ball.

    "If you have somebody that can throw mid-50s, then you're sitting pretty nice," Gerald said. "And Brittany can throw 63. That's tough to hit. We're very fortunate to have her."

Additionally, Gerald relies on the defense behind Baty to provide the necessary fielding support to stay in games.

    "Our defense is second to none," Gerald said. "When we are on our game, it is hard to get a base hit. It is hard to hit our pitching hard, and it is hard to get it past us.”

    In playoff competition, games are often decided by a narrow margin, and with Gerald’s confidence in his squad’s pitching and defense, they possess the formula to make a deep run.

“We like 3-1 games,” Gerald said. “We like low scoring games because we don't feel that pressure. We're going to make the routine plays."