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Gulf Coast State softball starts strong

By Tyler Waldrep

Don’t feel like you have to be perfect, trust your defense. That’s the message Gulf Coast State softball coach Beth Wade is preaching to her pitchers before they step in the circle.

“We’ve got the maturity there that freshman can kind of chill out a little bit and get their feet wet,” Wade said. “They’ve got a good defense behind them and I think we’re going to put some runs on the board.”

The Commodores opened the season 4-1 last weekend. At the time, Wade watched her completely untested group of pitchers surpass even her expectations of them as all four combined to allow 30 hits across 32 innings to finish with a 2.41 ERA.

Freshman Brittany Crowson pitched 11 innings last weekend and finished with a team-best 1.27 ERA. In her first start, a 10-3 win against Florida State College at Jacksonville, she allowed only three hits and completed the game in the circle.

Fellow newcomer Hannah Poole’s numbers weren’t quite as eye-popping, as she finished with a 3.00 ERA, but Poole got an extra three innings of work over Crowson.

“They’re going to get a ton of innings on the year,” Wade said. “They’re very successful coming in, but it’s still a little bit different atmosphere when you get here and you may have a little nerves coming into opening weekend as a freshman.”

With that in mind, Wade actually opened the season with sophomore Alexa Shiver in the circle. Shiver didn’t pitch last year for the Commodores, but she played plenty as the starter at second base.

“A great kid and a good competitor and she can play a lot of positions on the field so she’s comfortable in any environment really,” Wade said. “So we went with her and she did a great job.”

Out in the field, other familiar faces are everywhere except the right field and the third base, the latter of which will be covered by UTEP transfer Brianna Hill, who also hit third in the lineup last weekend. She finished with seven hits and four RBI on 16 appearances.

The most surprising performance of the weekend might belong to freshman Dixie Guesnard, who managed six hits on 12 appearances for one home run and a team-high seven RBI.

It was a performance that Wade said surprised her coming from a freshman at this point of the season. In many ways, Guesnard’s weekend was matched by sophomore Kaylee Raines, who also finished with six hits on 12 appearances.

“It doesn’t have to be the same person every day for us to win,” Wade said. “And teams in the past we’ve had some times (like), well, OK, you get through this kid or this kid is off and it may be a rough day.”

The offense isn’t the only thing looking up for the program this season.

“We’re further along this year than we were last year as far as switching defenses and just making the right calls,” Wade said.

The pitchers need a lot more reps and some of the bats still looked a little out of practice, but the veteran defense could be exactly what the Commodores need to contend in the Panhandle conference.

“The goal is always to get to the state tournament and get to the national tournament,” Wade said. “That’s where your goals always are. ... it’s a long road and we’re in the toughest conference in the country.”

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