MGCCC Lady Bulldogs finding closure in a fresh start
For a JUCO softball program that sure does a lot of winning, the final score actually comes second to simply getting back on the diamond.
MGCCC was a perfect 14-0 when the rest of its 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 and now the Lady Bulldogs find themselves trying to embrace the idea of starting a new campaign before the last one ever ended.
“I think we’re just thankful to have an opportunity to play a game against somebody other than ourselves and maybe go back and finish what we started last year.”
Things couldn’t have been going any better for the Lady Bulldogs, having won their first 14 games of the season and their last five straight over top 20 opponents.
Even though they didn’t know it at the time, their last swing of the season was a walk-off home run against 12th ranked Itawamba. Shortstop Rakeya Travis said, “The vibes coming from 14-0 were immaculate. We had good energy, good support and a lot of high expectations.”
Pitcher Andrea Morgan said, “It was really fun. But we didn’t take it as like, we need to keep on being undefeated. We just came out here every game like we were going to give it our all. Doesn’t matter if we win or lose, we’re just going to give it our all.”
Gulf Coast never did lose a game last year, but never won another either and obviously never played another game. All-in-all, 32 regular season games left out to dry and that’s not even including the state, region 23, or national tournaments. “We still wanted to practice and stuff, but they were like, you can’t do it, so it was sad.”
“The accomplishment was to have a winning season, and we did. We try not to bring up the 14-0 because really now, we look at it, it means nothing.”
Head Coach Eric Neel said, “Just an unfortunate break for everybody in the country to have to deal with COVID and all the pandemic that we’ve been dealing with in the country, and our kids were a little disappointed at first, but we talk about controlling what we can control every day, and that’s all we can control. We got to play 14 games and we took care of those and sure, there’s some stuff left on the table that we wish we could’ve finished, and hopefully we haven’t forgotten that and that’ll drive us throughout this season.”
The future is still bright for MGCCC as the nation’s second ranked team this pre-season. For the Lady Bulldogs, it all starts in the batter’s box where they outscored the opposition 110-37 a year ago. “We have speed, power and we also have ones that can look into the dugout and say hey, can you go hit for her, and we know that she’s going to put in the same amount of effort. It’s just power, a lot of depth.”
“Top to bottom, it’s probably the deepest club I’ve ever been fortunate enough to coach. We’re not going to sacrifice bunt a whole lot.”
Gulf Coast is also plenty talented in the circle, despite losing ace of the staff, Harrison Central Alum Kristen Cade who was 7-0 last season with a 0.81 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 43-and-a-third innings. “Say I go in and then somebody else goes in. It’s not going to be the same every time, so we have a lot of different mixes to put in during a game. (So just kind of changing the eye level?) Changing the eye level. (Now speaking of eyes, what’s going on behind these glasses?) Nothing is going on, nothing is going on. It’s just paparazzi can’t see me too long.” (They might find out who you are.) Yeah, they don’t need to know who I am just yet.”
But they will soon enough, in less than 24 hours at the start of a new season with the same old expectations. “Where we want to go, we do want to win a natty, if that’s possible, if the great Lord lets us see it. But I guess our huge expectation as a team is just to come out here and play as much ball as we can – as much as they’ll allow us to – to just get better every day, every practice and every game.”
The Lady Bulldogs lead off their 2021 season tomorrow at the Youngsville Invitational in Louisiana. They’ll play four games against four different teams on Friday and Saturday.