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Diamond Girls Hope To Shine
SUCCESS STORY. Matt Lancaster has won over 70 games during his tenure as the girls softball coach at Nash Central Middle School. Lancaster is shown giving instructions at a recent practice. (Graphic photos by Geoff Neville)
NASHVILLE -- Even with a roster in transition, Nash Central Middle School softball coach Matt Lancaster expects his club to be competitive during the 2010 season.

That’s nothing new -- the Lady Trojans have averaged 10 victories per campaign during Lancaster’s sever years in charge of the program.

But Lancaster is experiencing a depth chart overhaul this spring as only three performers return from Central’s 2009 club, which went 10-4 overall and won its final eight games in a row.

The players stepping in, however, have talent -- along with heavy doses of experience as members of area travel teams.

That’s why Lancaster expects a seamless transtion from his veteran squad last year to a potential-rich crew this spring.

“I think we will probably win the games we should win,’’ said Lancaster, who is three victories shy of 100 for his overall softball coaching career. “Maybe we can pull out a few other ones here and there against some of the other good teams (in the conference).’’

Lancaster will build his team around slugger Brittani Strickland, a catcher who Lancaster says is one of the best players he has ever coached.

“I’ve had some good ones, like Ashley Bone (Nash Central High and UNC-Chapel Hill signee); Melissa Avent (former Northern Nash High School and current Pitt Community College standout) and Tiffany Macklin (Nash Central High),’’ Lancaster said.

“Brittani is right up there. She is one of the best to have come through here. She is that good.’’

Nash Central’s talent certainly doesn’t stop with Strickland.

Returnee Kelli Lewis is a good athlete who will be reliable at shortstop. And Tashonda Brown is a veteran at first base who is a returning starter for the Lady Trojans.

Central will have a newcomer on the mound in seventh-grader Kelsee Whitley.

Though she is inexperienced on the middle school level, Whitley should be able to step right in and succeed due to her polished travel resume’.

“I think (Whitley) can handle it,’’ Lancaster said. “She has a lot of experience from playing travel ball. There will be some pressure on her, and she will be nervous. But she will be able to handle it.’’

Another first-year performer that Lancaster is high on is third baseman Halie Joyner.

She should bat at the top or near the top of Nash Central’s hitting order.

Chasity Harper will line up at the important second base position, and the speedy Asia Bryant is expected to be a defensive ace in center field.

At press time, Lancaster wasn’t sure about his corner outfield spots, as several players are in the mix for playing time.

Nash Central is currently working hard in preparation for the upcoming season, which will begin this coming Monday on the road with a matchup against Nash County rival Southern Nash in Stanhope.

Central’s best record during Lancaster’s tenure came four years ago, when Bone was an eighth-grader.

The Lady Trojans finished 14-2 during that season, and Bone would go on to Nash Central High School, where she would become a program mainstay as a freshman under head coach Gary Smith.

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