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New day for Lady Tornadoes

By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
Aug. 14, 2003
PHILADELPHIA A new day. A new coach. A new league.
All three await the Philadelphia Lady Tornadoes during this fall's slow-pitch softball season.
The 2002 Lady Tornadoes finished 13-9 after going 12-12 in 2001. Last year's team got off to a 5-0 start before losing nine of its last 17 games. Two of the wins during that stretch were forfeits from Heidelberg.
The most impressive win last fall, and possibly in school history, was an 8-6 conquest of eventual Class 3A state champion West Lauderdale at Collinsville in mid-September.
Last year's head coach, Scott Hill, has left the program to take over the fast-pitch program at East Central Community College. Mike Luke, the head coach at crosstown rival Neshoba Central last year, takes over the Lady Tornadoes' program this season.
Luke catches a break right off the bat as Philadelphia drops from Division 5-3A with traditional powers West Lauderdale and Newton County, to Division 5-2A. While defending Class 2A state champion Clarkdale is in that league, the remaining three teams give the Lady Tornadoes a shot at making the playoffs as four of the five division members will qualify.
And the last time Philadelphia was in 2A, the Lady Tornadoes won a state championship in 2000.
The Lady Tornadoes are in 5-2A with Clarkdale, Enterprise, Newton, and Lake.
"I haven't seen the other teams play," Luke said. "I know what Clarkdale's and Enterprise's reputations are and I know they're going to field good ballclubs. We'll just have to see how the competition is going to go.
"We are going to swing the bat a lot in practice and we're going to work hard. Who knows what might happen."
Of Luke's first 12 players, eight are sophomores or younger.
"We've got a lot of young ones," Luke said. "We've got some good young players and we've got some speed, but we've also got a lot of young ones who don't have much experience."
One strong point should be the left side of the infield where sophomore shortstop Shenique Brass and sophomore third baseman Shanese Hunter return.
Also back are sophomore left fielder Jillian Sparnecht, junior left-center fielder Candace Griffin, and junior pitcher Candisha Shannon.
"We're going to expect a lot out of them," Luke said. "They're going to have to step up big time if we're going to be successful."
At first base is freshman Erin Breland, while senior Dawn Rushing, a transfer from Lawrence County High School, is at second base. Freshman Brittany Hodges is the catcher. Freshman Ali Parsons, a transfer from Leake Academy, is in right-center with seventh grader Shelby Smith in right field.
Other players expected to see a good deal of action this fall are senior Jennifer McCarty and eighth grader Tira Logan.
The Lady Tornadoes host their annual tournament, Friday and Saturday, at Burnside Park. Also entered in Pool B with Philadelphia are Louisville,
Carthage, and Noxapater. In Pool A are Neshoba Central, Nanih Waiya, Choctaw Central, and Union. The pool winners will play at 3:15 Saturday for the championship.