Overbay back for second stint as coach of Lady Dragons


John Henson

Harlan Lady Dragons Team members include, from left, front row: Addison Jackson, Lily Nantz, Emma Eversole, Ella Farley and Ella Lisenbee; back row: Holly Myers, Kendyll Blanton, Shea Fuson, Annie Hoskins, Ava Nunez, Mallory McNeil and Carley Thomas; not pictured: Rhileigh Estes, Ally Kirby and Kytalynn Brock.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

David Overbay rebuilt the Harlan softball program once before, taking the Lady Dragons from an 11-15 team in 2015 to a 14-8 squad three years later before he stepped down. Overbay hopes to repeat that feat in his second stint as coach.
Harlan fell to 1-16 last season and has posted only two winning seasons (2017 and 2018) going back to a 14-12 mark in 2007, the last of four straight winning campaigns.
Overbay won’t enjoy the luxury of having his daughter, Ashley, as the Lady Dragons’ ace pitcher this time around but inherits a strong group of freshmen who placed second in their conference last spring. Freshmen fill 11 of 15 spots on this year’s Harlan roster. Conrad Thomas and Scott Lisenbee coached the middle school team the past several years and move up with the girls to join Overbay’s coaching staff.
“This is one of the best fundamental teams I’ve been around, which is unusual to be as young as they are,” Overbay said. “They are fundamentally sound. They are very coachable and have good attitudes. I’m excited to be back.”
Overbay takes over for Alex Pennington, who coached the past three years, including the 2020 season wiped out by the coronavirus.
“I sure empathize with Alex for what coaches had to go through with covid. She did a wonderful job through all that,” Overbay said.
With such a young roster, Overbay knows he probably can’t count on offensive explosions most nights, meaning pitchers Carley Thomas and Mallory McNiel will be crucial to the team’s success. McNiel pitched 14 games last season and Thomas pitched in six after moving up from the middle school team.
“We need more than one arm to rely on, and I think we’ll have that,” Overbay said. “Mallory is a location pitcher. She throws strikes. Carley has some speed and has thrown a lot of games in middle school.”
Addison Jackson established herself as one of the 13th Region’s top young players last season as the Lady Dragons’ catcher. Earning a starting job as eighth-grader on the varsity team, Jackson led the Lady Dragons with a .526 average, along with a team-high 10 hits, eight RBI and five doubles.
“She has played a lot of ball for her age,” Overbay said. “She has one of the strongest arms you’ll see, especially for her age. She also has some power and will hit near the top of our lineup.”
McNiel, who hit .273 last season, will play second base when she isn’t pitching. Rhileigh Estes, a freshman, will play second when McNiel is in the circle.
“What I’ve noticed about Mallory is that she knows the game and is fundamentally sound,” Overbay said. “Estes is pretty versatile. She can play in the infield and outfield.”
Ella Farley and Thomas, both freshmen, will share time at shortstop.
“Ella knows the game and is fundamentally sound,” Overbay said. “Carley can play just about anywhere. She has some power as a hitter.”
Ella Lisenbee, one of the stars of the middle school team, moves in at third base after hitting .500 last season in limited high school varsity action.”
“Ella is a softball player. She is tough and hard-nosed and knows the game,” Overbay said. “She has a good arm and will put her nose on the ball. She’s not afraid of it.”
Emma Eversole, the Lady Dragons’ only senior, will compete with sophomore Kendyll Blanton for the starting job at first base. Eversole hit .500 last season with four hits and four RBI. Blanton hit .500 with one hit.
“Emma has some experience. Kendyll can also play in the outfield. They can both play several positions,” Overbay said.
Lily Nantz, a freshman, is the probable starter in center field.
“She is fast and can make some plays,” Overbay said.
Ava Nunez, a freshman, could start in left and will also play first base.
“Ava is a hustler and has some power,” Overbay said. “If we can harness that, she will hit some hard balls.”
Ally Kirby will compete for playing time in right with Annie Hoskins and Blanton.
“Annie has good speed and a decent arm. She’s also a good leader,” Overbay said.
Holly Myers, Shea Fuston and Kytalynn Brock will also see action in the outfield.
What the Lady Dragons lack in experience could be made up for with teamwork, according to Overbay.
“This group has played together so long that they realize their mistakes before you can tell them,” he said. “There will be some growing pains, but they can handle that and will be able to learn from those mistakes and compete at a high level.”
Harlan hasn’t made it to the regional tournament since the 2018 team knocked off Middlesboro to finish as the 52nd District runner-up. The Lady Jackets are the favorite in both the district and the All “A” regional, but Overbay is excited about Harlan’s chances to make a run.
“Winning the All ‘A’ region is not unrealistic, as well as the (52nd) district. Those are two of our goals. I think we are very capable of reaching that,” Overbay said. “These girls have the talent and softball sense. They just need game experience. It’s a matter of getting on the field and seeing live pitches.”

Mallory McNiel is expected to see action as a pitcher and second baseman again this season for the Harlan Lady Dragons. (Chris Jones)