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GC softball awaits conference opener

Updated Mar 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM

By Pat McCann / The News Herald

 

PANAMA CITY — As the joke goes, when you’re being chased by a shark you don’t have to be the fastest swimmer, you just have to swim faster than one other guy.

 

That mantra could be adopted by the Gulf Coast softball team when it begins Panhandle Conference play with a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday against visiting Pensacola at Joe Tom King Field.

 

The Lady Commodores are 19-10, with Pensacola coming in 15-6 and on a conference-best seven-game winning streak.

 

Four of the five conference ballclubs will qualify for the state tournament this year, for the last time, so Gulf Coast has to be better than

just one of them to advance.

 

Gulf Coast coach Beth Wade noted, however, that the Panhandle is the only conference in the state where every team has a winning record in nonconference play.

 

“Everybody is good again this year,” Wade said. “It’s going to be a dogfight, so hopefully we’re prepared.”

 

The Lady Commodores have battled through an early stretch where they couldn’t close out games and wound up losing, and lately haven’t had their three-pitcher rotation healthy at the same time.

 

Wade said Brittany Lee was out for a while, then Kristina Manthei went down. Only Payton Carpenter has remained available.

“Manthei threw two innings against Indian Hills (Friday) and two against Wabash Valley (Saturday),” Wade said. “She’s not at full

strength, but hopefully we can use all three.

 

“We’ve been successful when we’ve been able to use all three and keep teams off-balance. That’s the key for us.”

 

Gulf Coast’s .341 team batting average is second in the conference only to Northwest Florida, and the Lady Commodores have hit for power with 26 home runs, most among PC teams.

 

Alexis Marchozzi leads with seven homers and is tied with Kynadi Tipler with 32 runs batted in. Tipler has four homers and hits a team-high .457. Annsley Brown is at .416 and has combined with Bailey Burk (36 steals) for 64 of Gulf Coast’s 96 stolen bases.

Marchozzi hits .381.

 

“I knew she could hit well, but didn’t do as good a job swinging the bat in the fall and struggled in the opening games,” Wade said of Marchozzi. “She has worked a lot of extra time outside of practice.”

 

The Lady Commodores also have more balanced power as Keala Cordeiro was far and away their long-ball threat the past two seasons.

Wade prefers a team fielding percentage of .950 be higher, as it currently ranks only third among conference teams. She projected that

almost half the team’s errors have come out of the third base position which has been in transition much of the early season.

Chipola and Northwest Florida again look to be the teams everyone else will chase in a 20-game conference schedule.

 

“Every game means something, but every game counts the same ultimately,” Wade said as she eyed today’s opening twinbill. “But from a mental standpoint it’s good to get wins early.”

 

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