POPLARVILLE, Miss. — October has only just begun but that hasn't stopped the Pearl River Wildcat softball program from laying the foundation for new head coach Christie Meeks.
The Wildcats opened fall ball practice a couple weeks ago and Meeks is already pleased to see the progress her team has made through the transition.
"One thing we've been doing as a coaching staff is creating a culture," Meeks said. "We want to create a culture built on family and trust between the girls. One of the things that we do here as we're going through is that we listen to each other."
While Meeks is instilling a new system into the program she does have the benefit of having some proven contributors returning to this year's team — particularly in the circle.
One of the proven arms returning for the Wildcats is pitcher Grace Stringer (Moselle; South Jones). Stringer posted a 13-4 record in her freshman season with a 2.30 ERA and 62 strikeouts.
"I'm very excited," Stringer said. "It's great be back this year."
Stringer feels the experience she earned her freshman season will help her enter the 2020 season with sense of confidence.
"I would definitely say that last year was a confidence booster," she said, "but I think this year with Coach Meeks she has really broken down some of the stuff that I need to work on and I think this year my confidence will increase and I'm really excited about that."
Another experienced arm Meeks will rely on is Gracie Barnett (Vancleave).
Barnett came on late last season for the Wildcats and was a crucial part of their post season run pitching an upset over nationally-ranked Jones in the MACJC State Tournament.
Barnett hopes that the Wildcats can use fall ball as a way to bond as a team and establish accountability throughout the locker room.
"I think my team goal is for everybody to be a leader for everybody," Barnett said. "Always be in somebodies back pocket. So my team goal is for everybody to stay all in and be in somebodies back pocket."
A NEW FACE
In addition to the 2019-20 signing class the Wildcats also added another catcher in West Alabama transfer Faith McKenzie (Fairhope, Ala.; Fairhope).
"Faith brings a lot of structure and a lot of seriousness to the field," Meeks said.
Meeks isn't the only new face on the Wildcat coaching staff as she brought in two new assistants in former Oklahoma catcher Hannah Sparks and Louisiana College shortstop Kourtney LeBlanc.
Sparks will serve as the hitting coach while LeBlanc will coach speed and conditioning.
The Wildcats will take on Coastal Alabama East and Coastal Alabama North at the D'lblerville Sports Complex on Sunday, Oct. 20. The games will start at noon and 3:30 p.m.
Pearl River Community College
Assistant Director of Communications for Athletics