With basically the same team returning from last year, the Academics Plus softball team is hoping for continued improvement in its third year of existence.

One thing that is different is the coach as Ken Holland takes over the helm this year. A standout athlete at Quitman, Holland is in his first year of full-time coaching and teaching. After guiding the Lady Falcon basketball team, he is now taking over the softball program. Holland has experience with baseball playing centerfield and second base in high school. He has also coached baseball and making the transition to softball has been easy.

"The difference is softball is more fast paced," Holland said. "Also because the runner can’t leave until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, the pitcher doesn’t have to worry about the runner. The catcher does have more worry to not let the ball get to the backstop."

Academics Plus opened the season last night and traveled to Rose Bud. Holland was anxious to see how the Lady Falcons performed. While Rose Bud has had some good teams in the past, Holland says it lost a lot of players from last season and is young with several ninth graders.

"I think they are one team we can compete with," he said. "I’ll know after this first game what we can and cannot do. We haven’t seen much live pitching but aren’t swinging at the ball until they throw a strike. I’ve got to get my kids focused on not swinging at bad pitches."

Returning from last year is sophomore pitcher Bailey Kirby, who just started pitching last season. She takes lessons, and this year junior catcher Lisa Goodwin has joined her. Goodwin moves to catcher from shortstop.

"Lisa is doing pretty good," Holland said. "She has a problem staying focused and having to catch every ball thrown keeps her active."

Holland’s main concern is the outfield. With freshman Madison Prime at shortstop, he believes he has a solid infield. Junior McKenzie Martinez will play centerfield, but Holland would like for her to play first base. However, he needs someone in centerfield with some experience. Two of four players will fill out the rest of the outfield.

"I’m anxious to see how we do against live pitching and running the bases," Holland said. "Some know what to do and some don’t."

On Friday, Academics Plus is scheduled to host Episcopal Collegiate and returns from Spring break and travels to Cutter Morning Star on March 31.