If it looks familiar, there’s a reason. The Big East Conference has been through this dance before.
For the second straight year, coaches in the conference believe Nash Central and Southern Nash will fight it out for league supreamacy.
Both teams have returned most of their players from last season, when they both finished 9-1 in the conference before the Bulldogs won the conference tournament.
“Nash Central is definitely going to be up there again, and we hope to be right there with them,” Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams said. “But I think Northern (Nash), (Wilson) Fike and (Wilson) Hunt have closed the gap. It should be a lot more competitive than last year, and that’s the type of conference I like to play in.”
The Ladybirds lost only two seniors from last season, but one was 2012 Telegram All-Area Pitcher of the Year Mariah Gray. Amanda Wood will take over as the No. 1 pitcher on a team that has a loaded lineup.
The Bulldogs similarly lost 2012 Telegram All-Area Hitter of the Year Lesley Murray and No. 1 pitcher Grayson Bass, but return most of their key parts from a season ago.
“We hope our strength is going to be our hitting, but I can’t prove it by the way we’ve hit so far,” Nash Central coach Gary Smith said. “When we come around, we’ve got five or six strong bats in our lineup. With that many, it’s not like you can pitch around them.”
While Southern Nash and Nash Central made the conference race a two-team affair midway through the schedule last season, Bailey-Reams believes that won’t be the case again in 2013.
Northern Nash returns nearly all of a very young team from last year, including starting pitcher Amanda Dickson and two Telegram First Team All-Area selections from a season ago.
“It’s going to be interesting to watch because I think it’ll be neck-and-neck,” Bailey-Reams said. “We prefer (parity) to one or two teams dominating. It keeps the girls focused to know you have to come to play every game.”
Nash Central and Southern Nash developed a friendly rivalry last season.
The Bulldogs won the first meeting in Bailey, but the Ladybirds won the second outing at Nash Central to earn a split for the regular season championship.
After the Ladybirds won, the team took pictures in front of the scoreboard, which then made their rounds on social media.
Then, after the Bulldogs won the conference tournament against Southern Nash, Nash Central went out of its way to take scoreboard pictures as a fireback.
And the two sides expect more of the same competition.
“It should be like it (has) been,” Smith said. “We expect to be there, and we expect Southern (Nash) to be there, too.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com.