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Baseball, softball seasons are back

Spring is not quite back in the air in Franklin County thanks to the cold temperatures, wind and rain we have had over the past few weeks, but baseball and softball season shave nevertheless returned for our local schools.

With a return to season comes a new chapter for some of the schools in Franklin County as new head coaches helm programs for the first time at their respective schools.

Chris Heaps, a former coach at Central-Phenix City, has taken over head coaching responsibilities for the Russellville Golden Tigers.

Russellville has a solid group of talent returning from last year’s group, including the likes of Jordan Gist, Logan Ezzell and Austin Kitterman.

The team did not have the kind of season they expected last year under then head coach David Ward.

Heaps was brought on in the offseason in the hopes of turning things around at Russellville and having the kind of seasons players and fans expect with the talented group on the field for the school.

Jonathan Raper is the new head coach for the Phil Campbell Bobcats baseball team, and he has much the same task as Heaps ahead of him.

The Bobcats had some success last season but were unable to make the postseason.

Phil Campbell expected more than a midrange season but were unable to accomplish more.

The team did, however, surprise Franklin County by topping Tharptown and Red Bay, the county’s only two playoff baseball teams last year, to win the 2012 Franklin County Tournament.

Raper takes over for Darren Welborn, and the level of talent that the Bobcats have returning will make fans expect a good season in 2013.

The team will have players like Brady Whitten, Cameron Harris, Craig Saint and Jamie Dorroh back for this year.

The Phil Campbell Lady Bobcats are one of only two softball teams to have a new head coach this year in Franklin County, the other being the Vina Lady Red Devils.

Nina Jackson takes the helm of the team that returns  players like Lauren Swinney,  Madison Hardy and Ashley Baker.

The Lady Bobcats had a good season in 2012 under then head coach Darit Riddle, but the team had an abrupt end to the year by being defeated in the area tournament.

The Lady Bobcats, much like the Boncats baseball team, did surprise some other teams by winning the 2012 Franklin County softball tournament, completing the sweep by the school.

Nina Jackson will look to continue and expand on that success by making it deeper into the postseason in 2013.

She will be assisted by her husband Doug Jackson, who was the assistant coach under Riddle over the past few seasons.

The Belgreen Bulldogs will have a new head coach also, with Shannon Oliver taking the helm of the ailing program.

The team won its first couple of games last year before experiencing a demoralizing losing streak that ground the season to a halt.

Some talent will return to the diamond in 2013 for Belgreen, but the school must overcome its basketball nature for any real success outside in the spring.

The Belgreen Lady Bulldogs lost a lot of talent to graduation last year with Erica Smith, Lauren Oliver Morgan Bradford and Bridget Thompson.

The team will have to have some young talent come along (and find parking around a field that has been plagued by road construction on Highway 24 in the offseason) to have the kind of success found last year.

The Lady Bulldogs made the regional tournament last year, and so did the Tharptown Lady Wildcats.

They made it further in the spring than any other team in Franklin County with a state playoff berth after coming in second at the regional.

The school picked up its first ever win in Montgomery last year, but losing Chloe Lane, Braeden Sellers and Erika Sparks to graduation will hurt the group in terms of leadership to a degree.

The Lady Wildcats may have the best young talent in the county, though, but only time will tell.

The baseball teams at Tharptown and Red Bay will look to return to the playoffs this year after being the only baseball teams around to see the postseason.

The Vina Red Devils came close but fell short, so that will be a goal in 2013.

The softball teams at Red Bay, Russellville and Vina will also look for better years in 2013.