The 2021 Covington High School softball season was bittersweet for Lanie Stafford.
After finishing six straight seasons one win short of the state tournament, Covington edged South Gibson in a sectional to make state for the first time in 11 years.
Stafford had to watch it all unfold from the dugout because she injured her right knee in the regular season finale. Her injury also kept her from playing in the state tournament.
“It was really tough, really tough,” Stafford said. “I shed some tears about it. I was proud of them, though.”
“It was tough on her and it was tough on me to see her like that,” Covington coach Justus Cousar said.
Stafford, now a senior, was in a much better mood Friday when she signed a softball scholarship with Jackson State Community College.
She acknowledged that her injury had her so down a few months ago that she wasn’t even sure she wanted to continue her softball career in college, even though JSCC head coach Taylor Schubert had been recruiting her before the injury.
“After I got hurt I stopped emailing her back,” Stafford said. “I really didn’t really feel like I would be able to play anymore in college. I was kind of down about it … I started going through my emails. I started feeling bad and said, ‘I really need to e-mail her back.'”
Stafford visited the campus in Jackson, Tenn. soon thereafter, liked what she saw and decided it was the place for her.
Even though she missed several postseason games in 2021, Stafford hit four home runs and drove in 22 runs while playing a steady first base. Cousar said he expects Stafford’s power numbers to increase this spring.
Another thing Cousar expects from Stafford is help when it comes to team chemistry issues.
“It’s rare, but when you have a group of high school girls together all the time, you have some things,” Cousar said. “I can always find out what’s going on. All I have to do is ask her. She’s very helpful … It’s not sugar-coated. When she thinks it, she pretty much says it.”
Stafford politely declined to give an example of some team issues she may have helped solve in the past, but acknowledged she embraces the role of team problem solver.
“I guess it just comes naturally,” Stafford said with a shrug. “He (Cousar) knows he can trust me. We have a close bond. He knows he can trust me to tell him how it really is and not hide it from him.”