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Co-Lin’s Kent busy signing softball stars

Reporting live: On the road with Copiah-Lincoln Community College softball coach Allen Kent. Traveling from Gallman to Summit, from Oak Grove to Lawrence County and from Bogue Chitto to Denham Springs, La., Kent works overtime this time of year.

After two weeks of rain, the sun is out and preseason practice is under way. Kent’s Lady Wolves begin their 2013 campaign Monday, Jan. 28, hosting No. 5-ranked Heartland (Ill.) for a twinbill, starting at noon.

In between time, Kent is busy riding the roads. It’s scholarship time and he has a fine crop of high school seniors who are willing to plot their future with Co-Lin’s Lady Wolves.

The conversation with this scribe is mainly about the upcoming softball season, deer hunting and scholarship prospects. For sure, Kent is a successful coach and hunter. Those assets compliment each other.

After signing players from Bogue Chitto, Oak Grove and Lawrence County last week, Kent visited Summit to sign North Pike catcher/infielder Breanna McKenzie Wednesday afternoon. He was in Gallman Tuesday for a scholarship party in Copiah Academy’s library. Surrounded by coaches, family and friends, senior outfielder Kaitlin Cooksey smiled for the photographers as she signed scholarship papers.

Cooksey, a 5-foot-8 athlete, played one season with Copiah’s Lady Colonels, helping them to a second straight MAIS Class AAA state championship. She batted .340, driving in 36 runs. She also had 33 hits, 3 doubles and 1 home run.

Her father, Stephen Cooksey, is the new baseball coach at Copiah. He previously had coached at Brookhaven Academy and Oak Forest. His daughter keeps stats for the baseball team.

Obviously, Kaitlin spent a lot of hours in the batting cage as her father provided instruction. “I lived in the batting cage when I was growing up.”

She was a welcome addition to Copiah’s already strong squad.

“I was fortunate to have her on my team for one year,” said Copiah coach Terry Bauer. “She has been a blessing to us. She fit in real well with out team. She’s a great leader.”

Bauer’s girls marched to a 35-7 worksheet en route to a repeat state championship. Cooksey was the only senior starter in the lineup.

Cooksey’s favorite subject is math. She’s considering a future in the medical field.

“I love watching the girls play at Co-Lin,” said Cooksey. “Coach Kent is a great coach and I love watching him coach.”

Kent returned the compliment. “Kaitlin is a natural outfielder with good instincts and a solid arm. She handles the bat well and is capable of putting up some very good offensive numbers.”

Cooksey will join former CA players: pitcher Meghan Johnson, catcher Kacie Berry and outfielder Elizabeth Cliburn next year. All three freshmen will contribute to Co-Lin’s team this spring.

In the North Pike library, a similar scenario took place. Kent brought an armload of Co-Lin merchandise to the ceremony, including a royal blue tablecloth and banner, along with a Co-Lin jersey, cap and softball. McKenzie is a strong, veteran catcher with a powerful bat.

“Breanna can play several positions and has great hands,” said Kent. “She has a great bat and has consistently put up big numbers. We are thrilled to have her join our program.”

McKenzie said Co-Lin has a “good sports medicine program. It’s close to home and I know I will enjoy playing for Coach Kent.”

North Pike coach Sonya Wallace has forged an outstanding softball program since she started coaching there in 1996. The Lady Jaguars finished 17-7 last year and advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs.

“Breanna has been our catcher for the past few years and has a done a good job,” said Wallace. “We expect her to be a leader on the field again this year.”

McKenzie was Co-MVP on The DAILY LEADER’s 2012 All-Area Softball Team.

Kent said McKenzie was his first North Pike signee. She was recruited by Jones County and neighboring Southwest.

Also on Tuesday, Brookhaven senior Christen Benson signed a double scholarship with East Central Community College. The 5-foot-8 athlete plans to play softball and basketball for the Lady Warriors.

ECCC softball coach Kristin Chaney said Benson is equal to the challenge. Chaney was a 2-sport star for the Lady Warriors and later played both sports for Southern Miss.

“Christen is an athlete,” said Chaney. “She can catch, play the outfield or infield for us. She’s a utility player.”

Benson batted .506 in slowpitch last fall and was selected Most Valuable Offensive Player on The DAILY LEADER’s 2012 All-Area Team. In fastpitch, she was named Best Defensive Player on her BHS squad.

BHS softball coach Chad Walker smiled with pride as he discussed his talented senior. “Christen works hard to be the best player she can be. She can be an outstanding team leader.”

Benson plays point guard in basketball and sports a 3.8 GPA in the classroom. She averages 11.3 points per game for Coach Freda Craft’s Lady Panthers.

ECCC women’s basketball coach Crandal Porter said Benson is the type of player he wants for his program. “Christen fits all the things we look for in a player. She plays hard and she has talent to be successful with us.”

For sure, Benson’s future looks bright.

Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tom.goetz@dailyleader.com