Despite his team being led by freshmen and sophomores, Mundy’s Mill coach Shaka Owens says they have a chance of making the postseason. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Having the best softball team in Clayton County is nothing new to Mundy’s Mill.
The Tigers once again claimed that title by running through the county tournament, something second-year head coach Shaka Owens estimates the program has done about four times over the last 10 years.
However, it’s doubtful that the future of Mundy’s Mill softball has ever looked any brighter than it looks today.After dropping its first two games of the season, Mundy’s Mill won its next seven games, including the county tournament, with a roster that has very little high school experience.
“The key is the hard work the ladies are putting in at practice,” Owens said. “We only have one senior. Everybody that comes out, they come out to play hard and they’re getting better every day. We have 11 sophomores and freshmen. We only had three players who played varsity last year and are still on this team. The freshmen are pitchers and hitters. I couldn’t ask for more.”
The team’s lone senior Shuwntrice Callaway, shortstop and pitcher, concurred.
“The newcomers are really good,” she said. “They got a lot of hustle, teamwork, and spirit.”
Pitcher and infielder Aliyah Murphy, pitcher and first baseman Tracy Mosley, and catcher and pitcher Asli Strozier have been three of the team’s better players as freshmen. Their places in the batting order show how much they are being relied upon.
Strozier is the leadoff hitter, Murphy bats third, and Mosley bats cleanup. In Mundy’s Mill 7-3 win over McIntosh, Strozier and Murphy both reached base three times and drove in two runs and Mosley, who had an off night by her standards, reached base twice.
“When you hit, it sort of sets the mood for the game,” Strozier said about her role as the leadoff hitter. “I feel if I get a hit, our second better will get a hit and then third. If I get an out, I feel that it disappoints the team because I’m the first hitter.”
Strozier’s thoughts echo the feelings Mosley has about hitting cleanup.
“It’s kind of a challenge, but it’s a lot of pressure on you too,” Mosley said.
So far all of the Tigers underclassmen have handled the pressure well, and that should come as no surprise in the case of Strozier, Murphy, and Mosley.
All three have played years of travel ball and they came into the program with good reputations.
“My expectations going into the season were very high because I knew that the girls that we were having come in were pretty good,” junior second basemen Dymond Lawrence said. “I knew we could [win] with just a little work.”
Lawrence is one of the team’s three upperclassmen along with Callaway and junior Briyana Cook. Cook, who is replacing one of the best players in program history, Kendalyn Arceneaux.
“Before they even came, I worked with them so I knew what they were working with,” Lawrence said. “I knew that when they came this is what we were going to be.”
Murphy and Mosley have also been relied upon as pitchers this season. Murphy was the pitcher when Mundy’s Mill won the Clayton County championship two weeks ago with a win over Morrow.
She fought through minor pain because she wanted to return the Tigers to the top of the county. Murphy only has positive memories of the championship game.
“It was good because Mundy’s Mill haven’t won a championship in [a few] years,” she said. “I wanted to bring that back to them. Even though I was hurting, I wanted to win a championship so I did everything I could.”
“My pitchers are commanding the whole county,” Owens said. “After watching [the win over McIntosh], they may be in command of the whole region.”
To make the state playoffs for the first time since 2010, Mundy’s Mill will have to control region and avenge a 17-0 loss to Union Grove, but finish in the top four at the region tournament. Still, the Tigers believe.
“I think we can go to the region tournament and win it,” Lawrence said.
Talk of winning one of the state’s tougher regions is bold, but one thing is for sure. If the young Tigers continue to pick up experience and improve, they will continue to get their share of wins.