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Gulf Coast set for Panhandle play

By Tyler Waldrep / twaldrep@pcnh.com
Posted at 9:43 PMUpdated at 9:43 PM

Gulf Coast headed to Columbus, Georgia last weekend riding an 11-game winning streak that saw the Lady Commodores outscore opponents by an average of 6.5 runs per game thanks in large part to an offense that scored more than 10 in seven outings over that span.

Then came the weekend and the Commodores lost three of five as the offense was held to 18 total runs. In some ways, it was exactly the weekend Gulf Coast coach Beth Wade wanted her team, especially the pitchers, to experience.

“They’ve been in some tighter ball games and they had to pitch out of some tight situations and they’ve had to pitch from behind and they’ve had to pitch with a one-run lead with a runner on,” Wade said. “And that’s what conference is going to be.”

Gulf Coast (23-7) will begin conference play with the rest of the Panhandle Conference this week. First up is a doubleheader on the road against Tallahassee on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. Then the Lady Commodores will return home for another doubleheader on Thursday against Northwest Florida State beginning at 4 p.m.

Hannah Poole and Brittany Crowson have combined to pitch 75 percent of the Commodores innings this season, though that probably can’t continue into conference play if the Lady Commodores want their pitchers to have something left in the tank at season’s end.

So Wade decided to give freshman Taylor Cochrane a chance over the weekend and she impressed the coaching staff with her performance in the circle.

“She gave up three earned runs in nine innings,” Wade said. “I mean for her to have thrown three on the year, she had some productive outings.”

It’s another piece in the Lady Commodores’ pitching arsenal and it adds a little insurance should the injury bug strike down the road.

Wade said the biggest showing of the weekend might belong to Allie Farrow, who was moved up to the second spot in the batting lineup from her usual place at the bottom of the order. Seven of Farrow’s 16 at-bats resulted in hits as she recorded three RBI and scored a run.

Farrow replaced Kaylee Raines, who currently leads the team among batters with at least 10 plate appearances, in on-base percentage with a mark of .524.

“She’s a very scrappy hitter and she has consistently proven that she can be around that mark,” Wade said of Raines.

She was held out over the weekend as a precautionary measure to ensure she remains healthy, but Raines’ batting average of .445 is the second highest mark on the team behind only Farrow’s mark of .457.

Before this weekend, everything was going well for the Gulf Coast offense and there’s little reason for anyone to believe that won’t be the case going forward, especially if the team can get back on track in conference play this week.

Sam Sisco leads things off for the Commodores’ offense and she has scored a team-high 39 runs.

“She gets on, it’s tough not to score her,” Wade said of her speedy lead-off hitter. “If you can get a hit behind her, she’s probably scoring.”

That’s probably because she’s also second in the country with 35 stolen bases. The Panhandle Conference also boasts the top base stealer in the country in Chipola’s Candela Figueroa, who has stolen one more base than Sisco, as well as the third and fourth place base stealers.

She’s not the only hitter for the Commodores that is one of the nation’s leaders. Kristina Warford has currently accounted for 40 of the team’s 202 RBI all by herself. That’s enough to place her second in the country.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Wade said of Warford’s play in big moments. “She’s not nonchalant, but she just does her thing and it doesn’t get too big.”

The batter ahead of Warford, Ashley Autuori, plays for Northwest Florida State, which will visit on Thursday for the Commodores’ first home conference games of the year.

That’s just how things go in a conference that has been represented in the national championship game three times since 2015 when Chipola won it all.

“Typically someone from this conference goes to nationals,” Wade said, “so you know if you can get out of the conference and go to state you’ve got a good chance at it.”

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