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From flyover to makeover

By PAT McCANN
News Herald Executive Sports Editor

Posted Oct 3, 2017 at 8:18 PM

 

PANAMA CITY — Call it is a season of change for the Gulf Coast State College softball team.

The women are concluding their final fall workouts on the diamond at Joe Tom King Field located outside the Billy Harrison Field House. When they come back in January, construction from the U.S. 98 flyover will have moved them across 23rd Street to a new field also currently under construction.

 

Not to be outdone by those circumstances, Coach Beth Wade enters her fourth season with the Lady Commodores having renovated the roster almost completely from a 28-23 season in spring 2017. Gulf Coast finished third in the Panhandle Conference and advanced to the state tournament.

 

If the Lady Commodores are to do so again it will be with a team that returns only four players from that ballclub and will field a whopping 12 freshmen in addition to two sophomore transfers.

 

Gulf Coast had eight freshmen last season, but among those leaving were Bailey Burk, a first team all-conference selection and second-teamers Alexis Marchozzi and Annsley Brown.

 

“A couple moved on to four-year schools, a couple transferred out,” Wade said of the transformation. We’ve got 12 new kids. Actually 14 new kids with Amie Hutchison and Morgan Martin.”

 

Hutchison is a sophomore pitcher from Fakenham, England, who played at Eastern Florida State as a freshman. Martin is a sophomore catcher who is a Division II transfer.

 

The holdover sophomores include pitcher Kristina Manthei, infielder Kynadi Tipler, catcher/first baseman Payton Burton and utility player Courtney Schweinsberg.

 

The rest of the roster comprises incoming freshmen.

 

“You go out and try to find the best players you can find I think,” Wade said. “I like to get the best athletes and see how they fit. I like

versatile kids.”

 

“We’ve been shuffling them around all fall. I think that versatility is key when you have 18 (players). Injuries always are a factor and it’s a long season.”

 

Wade feels that there is more pitching depth with Hutchison joining holdover Manthei as sophomores, and newcomers Alexa Shiver and Alex Watson, both pitcher/infielders from Alabama schools in Phenix City and Enterprise.

 

“Statistically (Manthei) was our best returning, and her and Amie are coming in with a bunch of experience,” Wade said. “We should be physically stronger and mentally stronger.

 

“They will be the two that anchor our staff and we have two good freshmen as well.”

 

Other newcomers are outfielders Amanda Dermody (Swansea, Illinois), Jamilah Johnson (Thomasville, Georgia), Sam Sisco (Dothan, Alabama) and Hayden Lindsay (Cantonment).

 

Freshmen infielders include Carson Hussey (Enterprise, Alabama) and Kristina Warford (Kirkland, Washington) with Allie Farrow (Phenix City) and Kaylee Raines (Geneva, Alabama) tabbed for utility roles along with Kaylee Howell of Mosley catcher/utility and Allison Shiver of Phenix City catcher/first base.

 

“We’re very athletic. We have a lot of team speed,” Wade said. “We stole a lot of bases and overall I think we’re better than last year.

“Twelve freshmen, yeah it’s a lot, and they’re stepping into roles and will be key parts offensively and defensively.”

 

Wade said that freshmen probably will start in center field and at shortstop, key positions defensively. She was reluctant to single out any of the new faces, preferring to address the total impact of the group.

 

“It’s hard to say, they’re all performing well,” Wade said. “Different days different kids are feeding off each other.

“Overall team chemistry is a big deal. They get along really well and are very competitive on the field. That draws out the best in everyone and hopefully makes our team stronger in January and then hopefully come May.”

 

Gulf Coast will conclude the home portion of its fall schedule with a scrimmage this evening at Joe Tom King Field and then play two doubleheaders a week on the road leading to a final twinbill at Montevallo, Alabama, on Oct. 24.

 

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