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Jonesboro softball wants to prove it belongs

Photo by Gabriel Stovall 
Jordan Jones is just a sophomore at catcher for Jonesboro but first year coach Parris Andrews said she’s already emerged as a team leader for the Cardinals.

Photo by Gabriel Stovall Jordan Jones is just a sophomore at catcher for Jonesboro but first year coach Parris Andrews said she’s already emerged as a team leader for the Cardinals.

Jonesboro softball may not be recognized as a powerhouse.

But coach Parris Andrews said his Cardinals are no pushover either.

Playing in Region 4-AAAA with more lauded Henry County teams like region-leading Locust Grove, surprising Stockbridge and Dutchtown does present challenges Andrews said, but as far as he’s concerned, the level of competition gives Jonesboro no reason to not be competitive.

“If we don’t make errors, we can compete with anybody, regardless of what region we’re in,” said the second-year head coach.

Toward the end of last week, the Cardinals tried their best to validate their coach’s confidence.

After dropping a region game to Upson-Lee in lopsided fashion, Jonesboro came out with a valiant effort in a loss to undefeated Stockbridge (5-4). Saturday, the Cardinals won the Clayton County Tournament when it beat Lovejoy — arguably Clayton County’s best team — 7-3.

Andrews said that tournament, and especially the near miss against Stockbridge, were strong signs of progress, but not enough for him to be completely satisfied.

“For the most part [the Stockbridge game] was an encouragement,” Andrews said. “But we’re not really looking for any moral victories.”

This week, the Cardinals square off against Spalding and undefeated Dutchtown.

Andrews said it’s sometimes frustrating dealing with the fact that Clayton County softball is not seen as favorably as its Henry County counterpart.

“It hurts us that we have no feeder program or middle school program here in Clayton,” Andrews said. “So a lot of these kids come around just by word of mouth. I go around to some of these places that have good feeder programs and their kids are already prepared to play at this level.”

His best players are junior Randi Marshall — who pitched the Cardinals to the win in Saturday’s tournament championship game, and sophomore catcher Jordan Jones.

“They’re young, but they are leaders on this team,” Andrews said.

The former head baseball coach at Westlake came to Jonesboro two years ago and immediately realized what he was up against.

Though there are recreation league softball teams, Andrews said kids who play for a middle school squad seem to enter high school with a leg up.

“Having that middle school feeder would make [Clayton County] more competitive with all the other counties both north and south of us,” he said. “You’ve got some parks and recs, but playing for your school just takes it to another level. In order to get them ready for high school, you have to get them ready before they come.”

Andrews knows that much of the reason for the lack in Clayton County softball is economic. He believes, though, that increased parental support could go a long way in helping more kids develop interest in the sport sooner rather than later.

“There are scholarships out there for these girls,” he said. “It’s easier for a young lady to get one in softball than in basketball. Everybody’s playing basketball. Not everybody plays softball.”

Still, Andrews makes no excues for Jonesboro, who made the state playoffs last year, losing to eventual state runner-up Whitewater in the first round.

Jonesboro’s 2012 goals, he said, are the same as most other teams regardless of the county — a top four finish in the region and an opportunity to play in the state tournament.

As for the obstacles, Andrews is only concerned about the ones he can control.

“Even though [Henry County] teams have traditionally stronger programs, we can compete with any of them,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but if we don’t make the mistakes, we can be right there.”