The 2011 edition of Coach Alison Sellers-Cook's Spring Hill College softball team will face a season of changes. The Badgers not only move into the tough West Division of the newly expanded Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), but they do so with 11 new faces on a roster of 17 players.
"With this many new players we have to take things as they come," says Sellers-Cook. "We need to focus on executing when we have runners on base and making sure we move them along. It's the little things that are going to decide the outcome this year."
The Badgers' main strength this year will come from its pitching staff led by senior All-Conference right-hander Sam Brooks of Belle Chasse, La. Brooks pitched 60% of the innings played by Spring Hill College in 2010 and recorded 98 strikeouts while walking just 25 to build a 1.63 earned run average.
Joining Brooks in the rotation this year will be junior Brittany Fields of Lucedale, Miss., a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) who should provide solid support.
The SHC infield will feature several new faces as junior Jenny Laird from Mobile's Baker High School moves to third base after a successful career at first base for Jones County (Miss.) Junior College. "Jenny is a bit of a softball oddity in that she'll be a left handed third baseman," says Sellers-Cook. "But she has the quickness and the fearless attitude that is needed there."
At shortstop, junior Holli Smith of Brookhaven, Miss., steps in following her 2-year tenure at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College while freshmen Stephanie Fair of Woodstock, Ga. and Megan Goldman of Stephens, Ala., vie to take over at first base. "In the field, Goldman still needs to grow into the position, but her power has the potential to be a serious threat for us at the plate."
Second base will be handled by senior Jessica Edgar of St. Louis, Mo., who is the only Badger veteran on the infield. With a career fielding percentage of .917 on the infield, Edgars' leadership and experience will be vital for the Badgers to be successful. Junior Jenna Barnes of Theodore (Ala.) High School and both Faulkner and Bishop State Community Colleges will also fight for time at the second sack. "Jenna is the type of player every team needs to be competitive at this level," Sellers-Cook says. "I feel comfortable plugging her in wherever and whenever we need her during a game."
Behind the plate the Badgers will move former infielder sophomore Haley Brown of Satsuma, Ala., into the catcher slot as Sellers-Cook wants veteran senior Brooke Turlich of Belle Chasse to focus more on her hitting this year by moving her to the designed player role. "In the past, our problem has been scoring runs," she says. "This year I want us to move more runners around on the base paths with bunting and stealing. Brooke understands that and I need her speed and experience on the bases more this year." Backing up Brown will be junior Kaitlyn McMellon of Hurley, Miss., who allowed just one passed ball in relief of Turlich during her freshman campaign in 2010.
The 2011 outfield will also feature a new crop of players as MGCCC transfer junior Kayla Moran of Pass Christian, Miss., sophomore Katelyn Hinson of Cottage Hill Christian Academy in Mobile, MGCCC junior transfer Kayla Tompkins of Moss Point, Miss., freshman Alex Himel of Madison, Miss. and freshmen Stefany Carty will patrol the fences.
Also in the outfield, but serving more as an example of Sellers-Cook's determination to put more speed on the base path, is freshman Shakeria Hall from Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Shakeria's speed is something I look forward to taking advantage of as the year goes on," she says. "She puts more pressure on the opposing outfield and if she can squeeze out just a few more runs for us, she'll be a difference maker on this team."
"This year I want us to focus on executing on offense," Sellers-Cook says. "We need to be much better at moving runners. You do that by knowing the situation and knowing what you're doing on the bases. If we can score just a handful of more runs, we'll win more games."
The Badgers open 2011 in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Friday at William Carey University versus Southern Nazarene University at 1:30 p.m. and Lindenwood University at 3:30 p.m.