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Hornets trying to build depth

PLANTERSVILLE — Baseball coaches always talk about the importance of pitching, but it’s softball where pitching matters most.

That’s the reason why the Dallas County High School softball has high expectations this season.

Cassie Daniels recorded more than 200 strikeouts last season for the Hornets, who went undefeated until playoff time, and she expects to record even more in her junior campaign.

But that’s not what matters to her.

“Strikeouts are good, but I can strike out a lot of folks and we can still not make it to state,” Daniels said. “I’m fine with putting it where they can put it in play and the defense can take care of it.”

The way coach Ed Miller talks, opponents will have a hard time putting the ball in play against Daniels, who has increased her velocity to 62 miles an hour.

“She throws strikes and doesn’t walk anybody,” Miller said. “I don’t expect anybody to get more than three runs than against her. We’ve played against her (in practice), and we can barely score three runs against her.”

Daniels has added a curveball that Miller said has made her hard to catch — a job he now refuses to do.

While the pitching is focused on power, the Hornets’ offense is more finesse, with speedy players who will be manufacturing most of their runs.

“We lost a lot of our power,” Miller said. “We have a lot of speed, and we’re going to be doing a lot of small ball: bunts, slap and choke-and-poke.”

Miller said he will use a different tactic this season that will be on display when the Hornets start their season Saturday in a tournament in Tuscaloosa. Rather than trotting out the same lineup game after game, Miller will play his entire roster throughout the season, even if it means taking some losses.

“We have four games, and we’re going to use four different lineups,” Miller said. “We’ll start all 22 before the tournament is over. We’re not expecting to go 4-0, but we probably could if we played out best nine in all four games. But that won’t help us down the road.”

Last season, the Hornets entered the playoffs undefeated and suffered two injuries right off the bat when two players collided in the outfield. Those injuries led to errors by the substitutes that proved too costly to overcome.

“We’re going to play a lot more people, and we might lose games, but it’s to prepare for the playoffs,” Miller said. “We’ve been playing against ourselves, but it’s a lot different than when you play against somebody else. Everybody saw last year that you need depth, and we just didn’t have it. Hopefully, we can take care of that.”