FC softball teams prep for season
The Belgreen Bulldogs return a bevy of experience from a team that won the area in 2018 and the north region to advance to the state tournament. So, expectations will be high for Coach John Smith’s squad.
“I have a great staff helping me this year,” said Smith. “We are very excited to get the season underway and chase our goals. This group has a lot of experience, and they are hard workers, coachable and strive to be the best.”
The Bulldogs return the heart of the infield in sophomore pitcher Emma Dempsey and senior catcher Kaycee Wilson.
“Emma is an experienced pitcher and a great student of the game,” said Smith. “Kaycee is an all-around leader on and off the field.”
Belgreen will also have all-purpose player Camie Terrell. Terrell, the versatile senior, can play both the infield and outfield for the Bulldogs. “Camie brings us experience, leadership and poise at the plate,” said Smith.
Phil Campbell Bobcats
The Phil Campbell Bobcats will be led by first-year coach Jordan Benford. Benford, who served as an assistant last year, said he wants to set the tone for his team on day one.
“We didn’t achieve the goals last year we set out to achieve,” said Benford. “This year my coaching staff and I made it a point to establish championship habits from day one. We hold players to a high standard and expect them to strive to do their best. We have a great group of girls who will work and compete. We just need to stay committed, motivated and positive.”
The Bobcats return the battery of the infield in pitcher Emma Ergle and catcher Katie Thomas.
“Emma was a workhorse for us last year,” said Benford. “We relied on her to win games when we struggled to get runs across. She is a great example of a student-athlete who holds herself to a high standard.
“Katie was our starting catcher last year and had a good year,” added Benford. “She provides a lot of consistency as a hitter and catcher, and that will be critical with a young team.”
Benford said he is also hoping infielder Cypress Quinn can pick up where she left off at the end of last season.
“Cypress ended last year on a hot streak,” Benford said. “She has a great attitude and is always looking to improve. She has the potential to drive in a lot of runs for us this year.”
Susie Tverberg will return to the dugout after a five-year break from coaching the Tharptown Wildcats. She returns to a young team moving from Class 1A to Class 2A. Tverberg said she is excited to take on the challenge.
“We have the potential to be very competitive,” said Tverberg. “We have some talented athletes who share a passion for the game of softball. As their coach, I plan to improve their skills and encourage competitive spirit so they may perform to the best of their ability.”
Tverberg returns three players who received All-State honors last year: Junior pitcher Olivia Ergle was second-team All State in Class 1A, as was junior outfielder Brooke Daily, and junior catcher Shaylee Wieting was an Honorable Mention All State.
“Our team slogan this year is, Attitude plus Actions equal Answers,” said Tverberg. “It’s my job to push the players to perform to the best of their ability. My goal is not to allow them to be satisfied or complacent with past success. I want them hungry for more.”
Red Bay Tigers
Shane Nichols is in his first year as the Red Bay Tigers softball coach. Nichols is in a fortunate position, having seven returning starters.
“We are really excited about this team,” said Nichols. “These girls have worked hard all fall, doing everything the coaching staff has asked. As a whole, this is a young team, but even with that youth, we have a lot of experience.”
Of the seven returning starters, three are seniors: Grace Pendegraph, Madison Wicker and Layla Bilstein.
Lila Blackburn, the lone returning sophomore starter, batted .377, hit five home runs and had 20 RBIs in the past season. She also pitched some for the team. Freshman Chole Knoblock also pitched several innings for the Tigers last year.
Two big bats are freshmen for Red Bay. Annaliese Rogers batted .488 with 21 RBIs, and Emma McCollister batted .450 with 10 RBIs.
“We have a good mix of athletic girls, which allows our staff to play fast and aggressive softball,” said Nichols.
Vina Red Devils
The Vina Red Devils will be led by new coach Jonathan Jones. Jones has past coaching experience at Pickens County, Lynn, Sulligent, Caledonia, Miss., and Dora.
“It is truly a blessing to be back home,” said Jones. “I am so thankful to be coaching at Vina. We plan to work hard throughout the season in hopes for a strong finish in the area tournament.”
Jones said he wants to build on the past successes of the program.
“This year we are excited to field two teams, junior high and varsity,” explained Jones. “We are excited at the fact everyone will be returning next season. We have been working hard in the off season, and the kids appear to be excited and have good attitudes.”
Vina has five returning juniors with experience. Kaitlyn King, an all-area pick last year, will be pitching and playing outfield. Baylee Hutcheson is a returning starter at second base. Hannah Johnson will move from third base to catcher, and Kayla Thompson and Greta Raper return to the outfield for the Red Devils.
“I love this team,” said Jones. “They are young and have a lot of athletic ability. I think the future looks great.”