Return of 8 players gives team shot at successPublished 5:40pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Priceville High School’s softball team is not looking back as it prepares for the 2013 season.
The Lady Bulldogs, while still a young team, have eight of their players back from a year ago when they struggled through a 4-22 season and finished last in their area.
Still, the bad memories of a losing season have not escaped head coach Chris Odom.
“We had a lot of young players and a lot of injuries,” Odom said. “Of the 1l players we had on the varsity, four were freshmen who played. And not until the last two or three games of the season were we able to have a lineup with the same players.”
“We’re fortunate to have eight of those players back this year; however, we’re going to miss the three seniors who graduated,” he pointed out.
The departing seniors left gaps at third base, first base and second base. Mandy Bunnell, who is now playing at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee, played third base, Haley Gray first base and Nicole Hopper second base.
Returning from last year’s team are seniors Amber Johnson, infielder, Emily Williams, infielder and Brittany Marks, catcher/outfielder; junior Kayla Parton, outfielder/ catcher; and four sophomores; Alison Varner, pitcher/infielder/outfielder. Erin Payne, pitcher/ first base, Abby St. John, pitcher/infielder/outfielder and McKenzie Parker, outfielder.
Newcomers to the varsity are transfer sophomore Heather Owens, infielder; three freshmen, Anna Catherine Law, infielder; Maggie Yambrek, infielder; Kenzie Price, outfielder; and eighth grader Sara Beth Wilson.
Odom said he expects hitting to be a team strength.
“We did a good job hitting the ball last year,” Odom pointed out, “and three of the girls we have back hit over .300.”
“Two of our weaknesses were walking too many batters and making too many fielding errors,” he said. “That’s something we’re working hard to correct.”
“We’ll pitch by committee rather than having a set rotation,” he added. Hopefully, this will enable our pitchers to be more accurate and consistent. We’re also stressing better focus on defense so that we can become more consistent making routine plays.”
Odom said improvement in pitching and doing a better job of finishing games are the biggest challenges his team faces heading into a new season.
“We need better accuracy (more strikes) from our pitchers and better production in the late inningsof games. Two-thirds of our losses last year were by two innings or less.”
In the absence of a structured off-season program, the Lady Bulldogs had the option of
working out on their own, playing summer travel ball or participating in conditioning exercises as members of volleyball and basketball teams.
In area competition, the Lady Bulldogs will face Haleyville, East Lawrence and Brooks. “One of our team goals is to make it back to the regionals, Odom said, “but the competition is going to be tough. Haleyville is the defending Class 4A state champion and returns all of its starters. Plus, East Lawrence finished fourth in the North Regionals a year ago.”
“We also have a tough schedule as a whole,” he added. Fourteen of the 18 teams we play competed in the North Regionals in 2012.
“But this group of girls is very excited about starting a new season with a clean slate. They’re working hard and our three seniors are showing great leadership, both by example and picking up the younger players.”
Working with Odom as assistant coaches are Sara Denard and Anthony Oliver.
The Lady Bulldogs opened their season by participating in the Fairview Tournament on Feb. 22-23. Their first home game will be against Good Hope on Feb. 28.