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Ciera Jones inherits a Gaston squad that has won consecutive league softball titles

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Gaston sophomore Haylie Davis led the Lady Greyhounds to a 14-1 record in league play last year and the team's second straight league title.Having grown up in populous northern Virginia, first-year Gaston softball coach Ciera Jones is still experiencing a little culture shock as she transitions into coaching at the small-school level, but she has been pleasantly surprised at how quickly she has been welcomed into the Gaston community.

“I’ve been happily surprised with everything. The parents have been really supportive and everybody has just been great,” Jones said. “I think I’ve been very lucky to get a group of such hard-working girls.”

Jones inherits an experienced team that returns all four infielders, plus pitchers Brielle Matson and Haylie Davis.

Matson, a senior, returns after suffering a broken ankle that shelved her for the entire 2012 season. Davis stepped in and pitched as a freshman, leading the Lady Greyhounds to a 14-1 Northwest League record and their second straight league championship.

Matson will resume her duties as the team’s primary starting pitcher this year, while Davis functions as a closer.

“That’s been working really well so far,” Jones said. “It’s really nice having two pitchers of their caliber.”

Jones also said that she’s been impressed with Matson’s work ethic as she returns from last year’s devastating injury.

“She’s worked hard to earn her starting position,” Jones said. “I wasn’t here last year so I have nothing to compare it to, but she’s looking great to me. She’s a dominating pitcher and she also has a very strong bat.”

The Gaston infield will be patrolled by four seniors, all of whom started last year. Cassie Van Dyke will play third base, Whitney Cookston will start at shortstop, Tayla Kuyl will play second and Kourtney Proffitt will be at first.

Sophomore Jaycie Endicott will step in as the team’s starting catcher this year, while a trio of sophomores patrols the outfield — Davis in right field (when she’s not pitching), Carly Christian in center and Kasey Cookston in left, with Amber Kuyl also seeing playing time as a flex player.

“Because I’m new to the area I didn’t really know what to expect, but the girls have been working really hard and they are very committed,” Jones said. “The past two-and-a-half weeks their focus has been outstanding.”

The Lady Greyhounds visit Sheridan on Thursday before traveling to Irrigon over spring break for a tournament that will feature some of the top 2A competition in the state.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the girls some experience when the pressure’s on them,” Jones said. “They did a really good job with fundraising and I think they’re excited for this trip.

“We’ve all agreed that if we go out and give it everything we’ve got, no matter the opponent, then the season will be a successful one.”

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