Azar, Belcher the keys to Alcovy's stiff defense

COVINGTON - If Alcovy is to make it to the next level of competition in the Class AAAA softball tournament, it needs to continue doing two of the three things that got the Tigers to the Class AAAA South Sectional at Lovejoy Park in Hampton.

"I've told the girls since day one that you have to do two out of three things well to be successful. You have to pitch well, play good defense and hit well," Alcovy coach Casey Bates said. "We've pitched good all year and we've played good defense all year."

Helping the Lady Tigers achieve their mark on defense are senior Kelly Azar and sophomore Melody Belcher.

From her position at second base, Azar controls the defense putting players where they need to be depending on the pitch as well as where Bates wants them.

"When we're out in the field she tells everyone what to do. If I want something done, I look at Kelly to move or switch defenses. I look at her to be a leader," Bates said.

Although only a sophomore and playing in her first year in the outfield, Belcher has already become an important part of Alcovy's defense.

At first, Bates was hesitant to take Belcher off second base, but in the end it was a move he never regretted.

"I really didn't want to move her from the infield because she's so good. But when we saw how good she moved and how well she played in the outfield, that made it that much easier," Bates said. "This is the best the outfield has looked since I've been here.

"Melody has made a big impact in the outfield. When the ball is hit to left field, I feel real confident that it's going to be caught."

However, she is more than a young player with a good glove. She is also unselfish.

"She has three jobs at the plate as the No. 2 batter. If Dallas (Hardin) gets on base, her job is to move her over. If Dallas doesn't get on, her job is to become the leadoff batter," Bates said. "If we have a runner on second with two down, she's going to bat right-handed and try to drive her in. She has a big job on her hands."

In the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Belcher leads the team with four sacrifice bunts. She is also a careful batter with eight walks, one less than Summer Kusch and Azar who lead the team with nine.

Belcher also has the third highest batting average at .325.

Amber Melton is the team's hot hitter with a .434 average and a team-high 10 doubles and three home runs.

"Our hitting is on and off," Bates said. "But once a girl starts hitting, the rest will start hitting the ball. That's all it's going to take, a few hits in the first couple of innings and the rest will catch on."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.