So far, I have battled my way through picking fantasy teams of Henry County High School players since 1985 for football, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball.
Now I’m going to run out to the diamond to pick the All-Tee Pee Talks girls’ softball team. I’ve been using 1985 as my starting point because that it is the year that I started covering sports at The Post-Intelligencer but that won’t work for girls’ softball since the Lady Patriots didn’t start playing softball until 1987.
Well actually, there was a team in 1978 that the late Stanley Cooper coached. The Lady Patriots put up an 18-3 record that year but despite all that success there wasn’t another team until 1987.
I haven’t uncovered much information on that early team.
Fans need to remember that I am using female player’s names as they appeared in articles when they played in high school. I’m pretty sure I’d make a mess out of trying to remember everyone’s married names.
Before we go too far into the players, I need to pick a coaching staff for girls’ softball. There have been 11 coaches for the HCHS softball program that I can choose from.
FRENCH COACHED 15 SEASONS
John Dale French was hired to coach the Lady Patriots in 1987 and remained at the helm of the program until 2002. He scored a 239-170-2 record for a winning percentage of .581.
His first two Lady Patriots’ squads predictably had losing records but HCHS turned in a 13-4 season in 1990. The Lady Patriots would only have one more losing record, a 4-18 mark in 1998, under French’s guidance.
Seven of French’s teams posted 20 wins or more. The top winners were a 23-8 squad in 1992 and a 23-14 team in 2000. His teams won six District 10-AAA championships.
The 1996 Lady Patriots posted a 21-9-1 record in winning the district tournament. They came in second in the Region 5-AAA Tournament but earned the program’s first sectional tournament berth, losing to Father Ryan on the road in Nashville.
VEAZEY, HODGE COME NEXT
The late Randy Veazey took over the program after French stepped down. He was a former baseball head coach at HCHS and stepped right in to post a 26-15 season in 2003. Veazey turned the reigns of the program over to Chad Hodge the next year.
Hodge was with the Lady Patriots for just one year with the team going 14-18-3. The Lady Patriots were eliminated from play in the district tournament both seasons.
TOUGH TIMES FOLLOWED
Larry Ingle was a longtime middle school basketball coach in Henry County before taking over the Lady Patriots in softball from 2005-09. He came in at a tough time for the program. There was good pitching but the team was lacking in the hitting and speed departments most seasons.
The Lady Patriots’ best season under Ingle was a 17-17 finish in 2007 when HCHS went 6-4 in district play and won the district’s South division title but placed third in the district tournament.
Ingle’s last two teams won just 14 games over the next two seasons. Brian Crawford became coach for the 2010 season and the Lady Patriots struggled to a 12-22 mark.
FIRST FEMALE COACHES ARRIVE
Former Lady Patriot player Kayla Parsons Berryhill coached the Lady Patriots in 2011 but could only produce a 3-17 mark.
The next season, former Bethel University softball standout Brittany Edmonds started turning around the program and laying the building blocks for it to become one of the best in the state. Edmonds’ first two teams both went 14-14 but the Lady Patriots turned in a 21-13 record in 2014. It was the team’s first 20-win season since 2003.
OSBRON BRINGS EXCELLENCE
Jamie Osbron is a former HCHS and Bethel University baseball standout who took over the Lady Patriots’ softball program in 2015 and led the team to unprecedented success. His first Lady Patriots squad posted the program’s first 30-win season and his second did better than that with a 42-4 record in 2016 and a No. 1 ranking in the state at one point in the season.
But it was the 2017 and 2018 teams that really caught fans’ attention when the Lady Patriots won back-to-back district, region and sectional titles before appearing twice in the Class AAA state tournament in Murfreesboro. The 2017 squad battled all the way to a No. 3 finish at the state tournament while the 2018 team went 1-2 in state tournament games.
Osbron has just agreed to return as the Lady Patriots’ head coach after a two-year break but he is going to find that he left some really big shoes behind the first time.
FORMER PLAYERS BECOME COACHES
Lady Patriot and University of Tennessee softball player Scarlet McSwain replaced Osbron at the helm in 2019 and the Lady Patriots stayed on a path of extreme success with a 24-10 record. When McSwain opted to return to college studies after that season, Renae Lassiter took over this spring.
Lassiter had been one of the program’s early stars under French and played at Bethel. She had been an assistant coach under both Osbron and McSwain. She also was a former HCHS girls’ basketball and golf head coach.
She had the Lady Patriots off to a 2-0 start this spring before play was stopped by the coronavirus pandemic. Her head coaching record is going to stand at 2-0 as she chose to step down as the softball coach earlier this month to become the county school system’s middle school athletic director. She will return to being the Lady Patriots’ assistant coach in both basketball and softball.
MY COACHING STAFF
It’s hard not to give a nod to French after his long-term start for the program and Veazey was a good friend as well as a very competent coach but I’m going to pick Osbron as my head coach with Lassiter sitting on the bench with him to guide my fantasy team.
I just can’t ignore the 103-20 record that duo posted in their first tour of duty together and the two state tournament berths.
Now I’ve got to somehow whittle down a list of impressive pitchers and hitters to make a workable lineup. Such terrible problems to have, indeed.
Go Big Red!
TOMMY PRIDDY is a Paris native who has been sports editor at The Post-Intelligencer since 1985. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.