Lady 'Landers hoping to turn things around

By Marvin Birchfield

STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It's been a hard road traveled for the Cloudland softball team in the past three years, but things appear to be headed in the right direction for the Lady 'Landers as they venture into the 2003 season.
   This team has virtually gone through a whole new makeover, with young players coming in with new assistant coach Jerry Lunsford, who is dedicate to winning.
   "I've played softball myself in different leagues for over 25 years, and I truly have a love for this game, and I'm excited about our season," said Lunsford.
   The pitching is going to be a question for how Cloudland performs, but it should be improved from last season, as a lot of new faces will be heading the mound.
   "We'll be as good as our pitching is, and we have about four or five new pitchers we can throw at teams," said Lunsford.
   Freshman Kayla Blevins and Tryphena Denton are a couple of the names who'll be at the mound, but the only draw back is even though the coaching staff knows a lot about baseball, they is not much experience on teaching how to past pitch.
   "I played softball a lot of years, but the one thing I don't know much about is how to teach them the fast-pitch," said Lunsford.
   Lunsford says, if they're not able to throw strikes, then they won't be too competitive.
   The 'Landers will be young at the mound, but this doesn't mean that you can over look them, for there is a lot of talent within the group.
   "If we can keep from walking more batters than what the other teams do, then we can be in every game that we play in," said Lunsford.
   The one area where Cloudland might shine is in its hitting, as they have several players who can make contact with the ball.
   "Jamie Icenhour and Duranda Byrd are going to be a couple of our best hitters on the team, and we've been working on the pitching machine and with the hit-away," said Lunsford.
   Most of the starters come from the Carter County League Softball League of last year, and their performance down the stretch earned the a first-place trophy in the post-season tournament.
   "We have anywhere from 18 to 20 girls who came out to play, and most of them played in the Carter County League last season, so this is pretty much a brand new team," said Lunsford.
   Cloudland still has a bunch of ground to cover when it comes to the fundamentals of the game, but the raw talent and speed they've obtained will surely put them in the ahead of what last year's team accomplished.
   "I don't want nobody feeling sorry for us, because I feel like we're going to be heavily improved, and we do possess quite a bit of speed," said Lunsford.
   Along with head coach Evangeline Hurter, look for Lunsford to use the same kind of tactics in motivating players as his brother Mike, who has built a top-notch football program for Cloudland.
   "I take a lot of pride in what I do -- just like my brother does -- and we go after things about the same way in giving 150 percent every time we walk out," said Lunsford.
   Lunsford says, the big key to having success is how you can relate to the kids and learn their personalities.
   "There are some kids that you can jump on and get their attention to make them do what you want them to, and then their some that you have to be just a little more patient with," said Lunsford.
   The 'Landers have been putting their noses to the grind stone in trying to get their program turned around, and by season's end it should start to show dramatically.
   "I've done told them all that they'll have to earn their position, and they have worked hard in practice and are really giving a great effort so far," said Lunsford.
   The whole spirit of the 'Lander team has seemed to take a change, and if they can get things iron out, then they'll surely give some teams trouble.
   "I'm excited and so are the girls, because they feel like they have a shot of playing well, so I'm really proud of the way their handling things," said Lunsford.
   The one team that always seems to get in the way for the past 20 years has been Unaka, and Lunsford says, it doesn't appear that things are going to be any different this season.
   "Unaka is always tough, and from what I hear they'll probably be the team to beat this season also," said Lunsford.
   Don't expect great things out of Cloudland to start the year, but as time rolls on don't be surprised if they upset a few teams either.
   "There's one thing about it and that is they might have picked on us before, but their not going to pick on us anymore," said Lunsford.
   The coaching staff requests if anyone is interested in volunteering with giving assistance in learning the fast pitch, they are welcomed and would greatly be appreciated.