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GC teams set for home openers

By PAT McCANN 
News Herald Executive Sports Editor

Posted Jan 31, 2018 at 4:50 PM

 

PANAMA CITY — The Gulf Coast State baseball and softball teams enter this weekend from different directions while plotting the same course.

 

The Commodores baseball team hosts the Kevin Miller Tournament at Bill Frazier Field, a series of single games running today through Sunday.

 

The Lady Commodores will play six games in their Visit Panama City Beach Gulf Coast Classic at Frank Brown Park in Panama City Beach. Included are two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

Both ballclubs will have their home openers in the process. Mike Kandler’s baseball team takes a 1-2 record into a 5 p.m. showdown with St. Johns River, 3-1, today at Frazier Field.

 

Beth Wade’s softball squad dropped its season opener last weekend in Clearwater, then rallied for three consecutive wins to gain some momentum into Friday’s games.

 

The coaches share pretty much the same mindset in preparing their teams.

 

“I want to see continued improvement,” Kandler said. “You can’t take a lot of stock in what happened. We want to win, but are we figuring things out?

 

“We want to command the zone better with our pitching staff. That would be a good starting point, and we made some untimely errors. That’s got to stop.”

 

Wade’s assessment wasn’t much different, despite her team having had more early success in going 3-1.

“We want to see more of the same, but we’re playing a lot of freshmen and they have their freshmen moments,” Wade said. “I’ll

continue to shuffle people around.

 

“We didn’t always make the right decisions defensively, and just getting back on the field and getting more experience.”

 

Where the Commodores stumbled mightily in its three-game set against State College of Florida in Bradenton was on the mound. Kandler used eight pitchers and they combined to yield 38 hits and 29 earned runs in 21 innings — a team ERA of 12.43

Kandler applied some perspective to those numbers, noting up front that the Manatees, like tonight’s opponent St. Johns River, are expected to be among the best in the state.

 

“We didn’t locate the ball very well, but there was a lot of factors,” Kandler said. “They can really hit, and the wind was blowing out about 30 mph.

 

“But we didn’t pitch the ball very well. So give them some of the credit and us some of the blame.”

 

Kandler said that sophomore Trever Kilcrease, 0-1, will start on the mound tonight. Reversing an early trend of Gulf Coast allowing at least three first-inning runs in each of its game will be the initial step in continued improvement.

 

On the plus side for the Commodores, sophomore catcher Cory Heffron went 6 for 9 with a home run and three runs batted in. Josh Nowak was 4 for 10, Malik Spratling had a homer and three RBIs and Alec Aleywine knocked in four runs.

 

Admission for the Kevin Miller Tournament, which includes multiple games each day, is $10 per day and $20 for the weekend.

Sparkman is sparkplug

 

Chandler Sparkman was a late pick-up, joining Gulf Coast after standout Kynadi Tipler signed with Louisiana-Lafayette in December. All she did was post three wins, two of them complete-game outings, while striking out 17 in 13 innings. Sparkman added six hits and six RBIs at the plate in four games.

 

“She did very well on the mound, pitched well and was tough to hit,” Wade said. “Offensively we hit well and they rebounded and made some adjustments.”

 

Amie Hutchison, who played sparingly as a freshman at Eastern Florida State, had a fabulous opening weekend. Among her 10 hits in 16 at-bats were five doubles and she led the Lady Commodores with seven RBIs.

 

Kristina Warford was 7-15 with six RBIs, Jamilah Johnson 7-13 with eight stolen bases and Sam Sisco had five steals.

The one mainstay who got off to a slow start was leading returning pitcher Kristina Manthei, who took the lone loss and was hit hard in two starts.

 

“That’s not a concern,” Wade said. “She’s going to have good weekends and bad weekends. I’m not worried about her at all. She’ll bounce back.”

 

Wade added that freshman Alex Watson also had two solid outings in the pitching circle for Gulf Coast.

 

This weekend’s schedule:

Thursday

Baseball — St. Johns River at Gulf Coast 5 p.m.

Friday

Baseball — Andrew College at Gulf Coast 10 a.m.

Softball — Chattanooga State at Gulf Coast noon, Gordon State at Gulf Coast 2:15 p.m.

Saturday

Baseball: Bevill State at Gulf Coast 10 a.m.

Softball: Coastal Alabama South at Gulf Coast 2:15 p.m., Coastal Alabama North at Gulf Coast 4:30 p.m.

Sunday

Baseball: Gordon at Gulf Coast 10 a.m.

Softball: Lakeland at Gulf Coast noon, ABAC at Gulf Coast 2:15 p.m.


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