First-year coach Samantha Hamby inherits six seniors and five returning starters at Ouachita.
Hamby, the Lady Leos’ pitching coach the past four seasons, was promoted to head coach when Tim Whitman departed for North DeSoto. Whitman guided Ouachita to Class 5A state championships in 2014 and 2018.
A former All-State pitcher at West Ouachita, Hamby went on to play for Central Alabama Community College and ULM prior to arriving at Ouachita.
Taking over a program which compiled a 200-51 record under Whitman, Hamby doesn’t plan on making any major changes.
“I am going to try to keep doing what coach Whitman was doing, but we will have to move some people around defensively because we lost so many positions," Hamby said.
Missing from last year’s state quarterfinalist are All-State pitcher/first baseman Jordyn Manning, Kyandria Neal, Maddie Bond, Kaylie Nettles and Haven LaDart.
All-State catcher Abby Allen (.557 batting average, 17 home runs, 57 RBIs) returns, along with shortstop Madelyn Fletcher (.409, 48 RBI, 54 runs), second baseman Tailor Lenard (.406, 14 HR, 48 RBI, 56 runs), outfielder Alivia Buckhalter (.398, 21 stolen bases), designated player Kendyl Patton (.352, 10 HR, 25 RBI), pitcher Bre Futch and pitcher/first baseman Allison Deiter.
“The senior class will put in the work,” Hamby said. “Those are the ones I am going to rely on to help the younger ones. I am blessed to have a senior class with so much experience.”
Lenard and Patton may play different positions.
“Tailor can play wherever we need her. She played the outfield two years ago and moved to second base last year,” Hamby said. “Kendyl could end up playing a position next year.”
Futch and Deiter have been splitting time in the circle for the varsity this summer. Also getting a look are sophomore Alyssa Norris and freshman Emily Jester.
“Between the four of them, this is the most pitchers we have had since I have been here,” Hamby said.
Hamby says she is still in the process of evaluating the incoming freshmen.
“We have a big freshman class,” Hamby said. “They have been doing well, but I haven’t really seen enough of them at this point.”