GC’s Wade lauds latest recruiting class
By PAT McCANN
News Herald Executive Sports Editor
PANAMA CITY — Beth Wade feels as though the Gulf Coast State College softball program is heading in the right direction as she enters her third season at the helm.
Supporting that assertion is an incoming recruiting class that she thinks bolsters the Lady Commodores in all phases of the game — pitching, speed, defense and power hitting.
“I expect it to be” the best team she has put on the field. “We have a lot of kids who can play a lot of different positions and some flexibility depending on injuries and who is producing.”
Wade brought in a number of players from Alabama high schools to go along with returning sophomores Bailey Pelkey, Bayleigh Heineman, Samantha Burks, Payton Carpenter, Haley Wood and Jenna Ewing.
Gulf Coast was 34-18 last season, reaching the state tournament after missing out in Wade’s first season.
Freshman Taylor Corbett has moved on to Troy University as a sophomore. Power-hitting All-American first baseman Keala Cordeiro (18 home runs, 79 RBIs) has signed with Quinnipiac, workhorse pitcher Alison Mitts with St. Leo, speedy outfielder Eloise Tribolet with Marshall and infielder Alayna Weiss with Thomas University.
“You definitely recruit pitching every year, but you need players that are fast or can hit with power,” Wade said. “You need a mix to have a good lineup and I think we have a little bit of everything in the incoming class.
“We have two pitchers to go along with Payton Carpenter, three speedy kids coming, a couple who can drive the ball. We have some big shoes to fill with Keala. Having her in the No. 3 spot has been nice and we’ll probably wind up replacing her with a couple of different people.”
Outfielder Annsley Brown and utility player Alexis (Sirdy) Marchozzi are from the Dothan, Alabama, area. Catcher Payton Burton is from Thomasville, Georgia, and outfielder Raven Didorek, pitcher/first baseman Brittany Lee, corner infielder Kynadi Tipler all played high school softball in Alabama.
Kristina Manthei is a right-handed pitcher from Las Vegas, Courtney Schweinsberg an infielder/outfielder from Vernon, Halleigh Keels a utility player from Port St. Joe and Bailey Burk is a slap-hitting outfielder who has transferred from Troy University.
“Power probably will come from both Paytons, Burton and Carpenter, and Kynadi can provide some pop in the middle of the order as well,” Wade said. “Some other kids will hit some bombs, too, but going in I would say those three will be our biggest power hitters.
“I expect Brown and Burk to steal a lot of bases. Our speed overall is much better than last year. I don’t know if we’ll have anyone steal 52 bases (Tribolet) this year, but with Annsley, Bailey and Raven, along with Jenna and Marchozzi we have quite a few kids who can run a little bit.”
Whereas Mitts won 28 games for Gulf Coast in 2016, Wade believes pitching will be deeper with Carpenter, Lee and Manthei in the circle. The Lady Commodores will begin conditioning Aug. 22 and start softball drills on Aug. 29.
“We’re definitely more overall athletic at every position,” Wade said. “We have good speed in the outfield. We have good kids coming in to go along with the returning sophomores.
“It’s a good mix. I expect Bailey (Burk) coming in from Troy to provide leadership as well.”