The Lady Indians softball team, which travels to Hancock Thursday, will have several tune-up games this month before the team's first big test, a district game against defending district champion George County.
The 2010 season saw the Biloxi Lady Indians earn a second place finish in 7-6A fast pitch softball and a playoff berth. Their season ended when the Clinton Lady Arrows eliminated Biloxi from the playoffs.
Biloxi coach Tommy Johnson said he expects another tough battle inside the district to see who claims the district title in 2011.
"All games are big, but our district games are huge," Johnson said. "Our district is very evenly matched from top to bottom."
Biloxi will host last year’s district champion, George County, on March 31.
In order to be competitive in the district, Johnson said the team is going to lean on pitcher Brittany Lang. "She's been our number one pitcher since her eighth grade season," the coach said. "She brings a lot of experience to the mound."
Part of that experience has been Lang's development as a pitcher. "She is more than just a thrower," Johnson said. "She is starting to learn to be a pitcher by using her fastball to set up her secondary pitches. She also fields her position well."
Lang also helps her own cause with the bat. Johnson expects Lang, who batted over .330 last season, to be a major contributor on offense in the 2011 season.
Johnson said the team will also depend on Dana Barhanovich. She will play shortstop for the Lady Indians, even though Johnson believes her natural position is second base.
"We had to move her to shortstop last season, and she has taken to it quite well," Johnson said. He said the success of Barhanovich, who hit .310 last season, was not surprising. "Dana is one of those players who does all of the little things well," Johnson said. "She makes routine plays in the field, puts down bunts, and rarely strikes out."
Lang and Barhanovich are just two of the players returning for the 2011 season. The Lady Indians are returning eight of 10 starters from their 2010 squad, but Johnson said the loss of Elizabeth Griffin has left a hole that will have to be filled this season.
"Griffin was our clean-up hitter and left fielder last season, and we will miss her bat in the middle of the line up," Johnson said. He said the team was also missing their leading hitter and centerfielder from last season as well, but he sees two players who are battling to fill those voids.
"We were very young last season, and we have some kids who are ready to step up and fill those shoes," Johnson said. "Two players that have really improved are sophomore Tabby Junkert and freshman Tori Poole. They are both pushing each other hard every day at practice."
In addition to the players from last season, Johnson said the addition of Arielle Russell will help the team. Said Johnson: "She brings experience and a steady glove to our infield."
Softball schedule: To print the 2011 softball schedule, click here.