Skipjacks should again be softball contender
Hayes opens Sunday, mixing three returners with eight freshmen
WYE MILLS Chesapeake College has developed into an annual state and region title contender in women’s softball. The Skipjacks look to be an elite team again in 2012.
"I believe the phrase is ’cautiously optimistic’," said fifth-year head coach Durrie Hayes, who guided the Skipjacks to the 2009 Region XX title and a share of the 2010 state championship. "Like every year, you go as far as the pitching takes you, but everyone has worked really hard and the fundamentals appear sound."
Hayes has been pleased with the pitching Amber LaBille, one of the three returning sophomores, and freshman Cheyenne Riley, and just recently added freshman pitcher Jessica Parks (North Caroline High) to the roster.
"Amber threw well last year and seems to be throwing better this year than last year, which is what you hope to see from your sophomores," said Hayes. "Cheyenne did a nice job in the fall. Jessica just joined us, but I’ve seen her play travel ball and high school. She was a mainstay of their (North Caroline’s) pitching staff."
LaBille posted a 13-9 record with a 2.10 earned-run average as a freshman. She was second in wins in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference to Anne Arundel’s Brandi Hope.
Hayes used fall ball and the early spring practices to shift players defensively and now believes he has a strong defensive club.
"Defensively, we look as good as any team I’ve had, certainly at this point," said Hayes, whose Skipjacks (24-19) were 13-5 in the conference last season.
Sophomore Sarah Spicher (.365 batting average, 35 RBI in 2011) and freshman Lisa Hood will hold down first and third, respectively, although each can also play the other infield corner. Freshman Samantha Greenwell will play shortstop while LaBille and Riley can both play second base when not pitching, as can freshman Danni Hintermeister when she isn’t patrolling center field.
"We have a little bit of flexibility," said Hayes.
Sophomore Lavin Kulina and freshman Michelle Lawrenson will play left and right field, respectively, while Hintermeister and freshman Erin Scarborough who also catches can each play center field. Scarborough and fellow freshman Darian McCoy will each see time behind the plate.
"Our catchers look solid," said Hayes. "They’re also both vocal leaders, and that’s nice to have in your catchers."
The offense could be the biggest early season question mark for the Skipjacks, who open Sunday with a noon doubleheader at Harford Community College.
"We don’t have a whole lot of power at all," said Hayes. "We’ve been practicing mostly indoors, so it’s hard to tell a lot. When we have been outside, they all hit the ball well of course, they were all batting off of me, so they don’t get points for that."
After Sunday’s opener, the Skipjacks will play 10 games on their Florida spring break trip. The trip will be highlighted by a doubleheader against Heartland Community College, which won the NJCAA Division II national championship in 2009 and claimed region and district championships last year.
"It looks like the teams we play this year in Florida will be the strongest we’ve faced," said Hayes. "Heartland is ranked sixth in the country. Three teams are from Illinois, one from Ohio, one from Minnesota and the Midwest is a very strong area for JuCo softball.
"I’m expecting all 10 games to be tough games," added Hayes. "It’s certainly a challenge this time of year to play that level of competition, but that’s how you get better."
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