by: Karli Maulin
photo by: Heather Alleman
This Friday the Troy University softball team will start their season at Mississippi State University’s Bulldog Kickoff Classic.
Head Coach Melanie Davis has brought the Trojan softball team 737 wins since she came to Troy University in 1993 and plans to have another successful season.
There are nine new players on the team and eight of which are freshmen that Davis will be counting on to be the team’s starters.
Players Amanda Winters from Locust Grove High School, Ebony Wright from Angleton High School and Leanna Smith from Loveless Academic Magnet Program will be replacing past members of the team including Sarah Harris from Semiahmooo Secondary School in Canada, Kelly Luquette from St. Amant High School and Lauren Griffith from Baker High School.
One of the freshmen infield players is Michele Moore, who led her high school Faith Academy, to four championships and was named to the all-state second team.
Other new infield players are Leah Brundidge from T.R. Miller High School, Keelie Housley from Tuscaloosa County High School and Chandler Griffin from Mill Creek High School.
The battery, also known as the pitchers and catchers, have gained one new pitcher and catcher who are both freshman named Brittany Russ from Central High School and Rachel Rigney from Thompson High School.
Because the team is younger and has a lot of new players, Davis admits the team’s ultimate weakness will be inexperience especially when it comes to batting.
The girls will have to adjust with the quality of the pitches and Davis suspects the girls will chase a lot of bad pitches through the season.
“What also concerns me is our depth,” Davis said. “With young players facing injuries, we could lose talent and experience.”
Last year the team’s depth was very good, but with players like freshmen Bria Epps, an outfielder from Chapel Hill High School, already tearing her anterior cruciate ligament, or A.C.L., brings it down already for this season.
The battery, also known as the pitchers and catchers, are believed by Coach Davis and assistant coach Sharon O’mara to be the strongest players on the team and the most prepared for the upcoming season because they have the most chemistry and the majority of the battery is returning players with the exception of catcher Russ and pitcher Rigney.
Returning pitchers Ashley Rainey, Sarah Thomas and Jaycee Affeldt have been working closely with their new freshman left-handed pitcher Rigney to condition her pitching technique and continue to build their chemistry on and off the field.
“We will improve greatly with these returning girls and our new pitcher and catcher,” Davis said.”
Hannah Renn will return this season as the only veteran catcher and has been working closely with Russ.
Assistant coach Sharon O’mara is looking forward to her fifth season with the team and more particularly, the battery.
“The game now is so mental, the catchers work really hard during practice and we encourage them to get to know the pitchers on and off the field to develop a relationship with one another,” O’mara said.
O’mara believes playing the game is like going into battle and she reminds the battery to forget the last pitch thrown and make the next one count.
“I think that mental component is the huge part across the board for the entire team,” O’mara said. “If you can learn how to battle, you can accomplish anything in the game.”
In 2012, while the team won more games than they lost, the record was 31-24 and to improve the team’s away games, the coaches plan to build the team’s chemistry even more.
“These new girls will help us win all the games that we shouldn’t have lost last year, and I look forward to seeing their performance on the field during the games,” Davis said.
“I think the team now where we are since I’ve been here is in the best shape that it’s ever been in,” O’mara said. “It’s tough, but I think that the team is in a great place, and I think we’ll make a better impact than we did last year.”
The softball team will compete against both Georgia State at 10 a.m. and Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. this upcoming Friday morning.
The first home game will take place Saturday, Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. against South Illinois University Edwardsville.