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Poplarville softball holds unusual tryout

The Poplarville Lady Hornets softball team hosted its tryouts for the high school and middle school squads June 2 and had to alter the normal slew of drills to meet the Mississippi High School Activities Association COVID-19 guidelines.

Painstaking steps were taken by Head Coach Janessa Deckwa and her assistant coaches Luke Gipson and Branda Northrop to make sure equipment was sanitized and the players were properly spaced out during the tryout process.

Deckwa said there were 20 athletes that took part in the high school tryout and 17 players who participated in the middle school tryout.

The pandemic could’ve had a negative impact on turnout, but Deckwa said the numbers were comparable to previous years.

The tryout process was all encompassing and included drills focused on players’ speed, arm strength, fielding ability and hitting prowess.

Infielders and outfielders worked through specific drills, as did pitchers and catchers.

However, after each use the balls had to be sanitized by Deckwa or another coach, slowing down the process.

Every time a bat was used it had to be wiped down along with any batting helmets that were used.

While the guidelines set by the MHSAA meant spending a decent amount of the tryout period sanitizing equipment, Deck said it wasn’t an overly arduous task.

“It was all fairly manageable. We were able to split them up, and we made it very clear when we got there all the things we had to do (with the equipment),” Deckwa said.

The drills were an opportunity for the staff to evaluate new talent while also gaining a better understanding of the roles returning players will have.

Tryouts serve multiple purposes because not only is Deckwa responsible for fielding the best possible team for the upcoming season, but she also has to keep the future in mind when looking for talent.

“It’s about development too. We have to look several years ahead of time to start them in our program and start developing them to be ready for when they’re older,” Deckwa said.

Deckwa said the plan was to announce the full roster the day after tryouts because the team’s first meeting will take place June 4 and she wanted to give players some warning.

Following the meeting will be a couple of weeks where the players will focus on weight lifting and conditioning before a team camp is held.

Teams aren’t allowed to travel to camps under MHSAA guidelines, so Poplarville is having the Pearl River Community College softball staff come to them.

On June 16 the Lady Hornets will have the opportunity to learn about what it takes to be a successful softball player not only in high school, but at the college level as well.

Following camp the plan for Poplarville is to start working more on softball skills after spending the first couple of weeks acclimating to the heat and intensity of practices.

“We’ll start throwing again for one that’s something we’ll try to shut down for now. We’ll do more team defense things because we’d like to scrimmage amongst ourselves (at some point). We’re going to try to get more team oriented as far as drills go,” Deckwa said.