Gilbert takes the reins of Middlesboro softball team

Published 3:46 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

Things definitely took a swift turn for the Middlesboro softball team during the offseason. Heading into a year where the team lost only one senior, many were shocked when Luster Powers was relieved of his duties just a few weeks ago. Petie Gilbert was hired to take over the program.

“The problem was we were having problems getting kids out, so the athletic director came to me about taking this over and trying to get some kids out,” said Gilbert. “As of right now, we got 18 kids out. I feel good about the program right now.

“The practices we’ve been having have been great. We’re trying to move the ball around, trying to teach them more about what’s going on and trying to get them where they need to be by the end of the year. Right now, we still have a long way to go.”

In his first year, Gilbert will be working with a team that returns 10 players that either started or saw significant playing time. The one major loss the team took was the graduation of Madison Shields, who was the team’s ace pitcher for the past two years.

Sophomore Hannah McCullough saw some time last season in the circle as well as senior Taylor Yoakum, but neither spend extended time pitching with Shields in firm control of the role.

“We’re going to struggle in the pitching department this year. We’ve got some new kids trying to learn how to do it,” said Gilbert. “We’ve got three pitchers right now that’s learning and trying to get better with it.”

Over the past six years, the Lady Jackets have been among the favorites to win the 52nd District and have won the 13th Region All A title six straight years. In addition to that, they have made appearances in the 13th Region tournament every year since 2013.

“What we’re trying to do is get the team to do what we want them to do, and we will go from there,” said Gilbert. “Hopefully they will learn by the end of the year that we’re going to be alright to compete for a regional title.”

Middlesboro will kick off the season on Monday against Pineville as part of the 13th Region All A Classic.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN