Preview: Franklin County softball action
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
The Belgreen Bulldogs will be returning a trove of starters from last year’s team, but that doesn’t belie the fact the Bulldogs will still be very young. Belgreen Coach Chris Scott, however, will not let youth hold his team back from, what he believes, could be a special season.
“We hope, by playing a very tough non-area schedule this season, we will be prepared to make a deep run in the postseason,” said Scott. “Overall we will be a young team this year, but these girls have played a lot of good softball over the years, and we are confident they will be able to handle the challenges of the season.”
Scott listed his key returning starters as Allyson Bragwell, Kylie Murray, Grace Smith, Johnna Oliver, Cortny Williams, Camie Terrell, Emmie Scott, Katie Dempsey and Krista Sikes.
Phil Campbell Bobcats
Doug Jackson said he believes the future is bright for the Phil Campbell Bobcat softball program and is looking to some of his younger players to step up and be leaders for the team this year. Jackson mentioned both his daughter, Leeah Jackson, and Bethany Harris as players returning from last year that will have to be major contributors to this year’s squad.
“Leeah and Bethany both batted .500 last year,” said Jackson. “We are looking forward to seeing what they can do this year. We only have two seniors, so the future looks very bright for us. I can’t wait to see how the season progresses and how this team can perform.”
Jackson listed this year’s crop of players as Tierney Barton, Megan Bullock, Abby Davis, Karley Ergle, Bethany Harris, Leeah Jackson, Alaina Jones, Olivia Knight, Chloe Roberson, Carley Weeks, Chloe West and Morgan Patterson.
Tharptown Coach Tanna Benford said she knows it will be a challenge to replace three veterans who started for the program for five years, but she is excited about the talent returning and is ready to get the season started. The reason for optimism is the return of the team’s top three hitters – Kaitlyn Vandiver, Kaylee Bain and Haley Malone.
“It is exciting to have that kind of talent and leadership returning to this team,” said Benford. “Kaitlyn will have to help us in the pitching role this year. She is very capable and did a great job for us last year when called upon.”
Benford also said the Wildcats will have to look to some of the younger players to fill in the holes left by last year’s departures.
“We will be looking to some eighth graders to step us this year,” said Benford. “Olivia Ergle will have to help us pitching to give Kaitlyn some relief.”
Benford also noted the tough area her team will play in and is looking forward to the challenge of making it back to the regionals.
“We finished second to Hatton last year, who is always a state power in softball,” said Benford. “Phil Campbell beat us once last year, and Sulligent has improved also. It will be a tough area, but we are very capable of getting back to the regionals and even state this year. That is our goal.”
Tharptown’s roster includes Kaitlyn Vandiver, Jaelyn Johnson, Cara Ergle, Rachel Love, Shaylee Wieting, Darla Smith, Aly Vandiver, Olivia Ergle, Haley Malone, Kaylee Bain, Ameliah Dawson and Klaudia Harris.
Red Bay Tigers
The Red Bay Tigers are looking to find some softball success this year, said longtime Coach Steve Cox. The Tigers posted a disappointing season last year and are looking to rebound this year.
“We only have two returning seniors and four returning juniors,” said Cox. “With the sophomores that played with us last year, we have more experience. I expect to have a more successful season this year.”
Red Bay will be looking to those returning starters to build on leadership roles and make play in the field and at the plate.
Red Bay’s roster includes Morgan Pierce, Autumn Higginbottom, Jordyn McKinney, Makenzie Eaton, Lila Blackburn, Taylor Tucker, Linnea Arnstead, Layla Bilstein, Branna Jacobs, Kaitlin Robbins, Cynda Grainger and Victoria Rodreguez.
Vina Red Devils
The Vina Red Devils will be looking to continue a rebuilding process that began last year under Coach Richie Hester. The Red Devils only won ten games in last season but expect to improve that this year.
“We will still be young and still rebuilding the program,” said Hester. “Our expectations are high. We have experience at key positions, and our season will depend on these key players staying injury free. With a little luck, we will be a team to watch this season.”
Hester listed his returning players as Abby Hester, Erica Cantrell, Kaitlyn King, Brooke Brown, Ashleigh Thompson, Emily Renfrow, Annabelle Upton, and Maddie Rapers. Hester’s key newcomers are Gracie Raper, Sarah Johnson, Kim Stevens and Hannah Letson.