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Lady Patriots softball looks to grow this season

February 24, 2016

By: CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — One of the best things about sports is watching a team grow over the course of a season.

That’s the main the objective for first-year Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) softball coach Robbi Campbell. He is taking over a Lady Patriots team that won just four games last season and returns only three sophomores. Regardless, Campbell believes he has a group of 12 women that can surprise the rest of Region X this spring.

An American Softball Association (ASA) travel softball coach over the last eight years, Campbell said he is excited to coach the college game for the first time. Taking over a program that has had recent success in the region, the first-year coach not only hopes to push his players but himself in the process. He has seen quality competition throughout the Mid-Atlantic region during his time with ASA, while also garnering plenty of exposure for graduating high school seniors, many of who he is dealing with this season.

“I see girls that want to win and I know those coming back from last year didn’t experience a lot of winning, so I’ve seen a lot of heart and desire,” Campbell said of his initial observations of the team. “They want to put the time in, and if they’re not on the field or in the (batting) cages, they’re in the gym and working hard.”

Campbell has a few players on his roster that he’s seen play high school softball in the past and both happen to be returning sophomores. Magna Vista High School graduate Hailey Williams and Chatham High School grad Maddy Gauldin provide a pair of key components to the Lady Patriots hitting, pitching and defense. Gauldin led the team with a .379 batting average last season.

Their leadership, along with fellow sophomore outfield Alba Cruz, is something Campbell said provides the type of winning structure needed on and off the field.

The offense is the team’s biggest threat this season. Williams and freshman Krista Frazier provide high-percentage on-base and batting average players at the top of the lineup. Abby Williams, Krista Smith, Kayla Hailey and Gauldin provide power, run-producing bats in the middle of the lineup. Sophomore first-time softball player Tovin Saleh, the school’s leading scorer in soccer, gives another contact bat at the No. 9 spot, recording three hits in a suspended game last week against Ferrum College.

Women’s basketball player and freshman standout Ebony Reynolds will add another power bat and steady infielder when she gets done with her hoops season. Campbell said he is confident in the lineup and that it features a good blend of speed and power which has the ability to turn itself over. The only concern offensively for the head coach is slow starts to doubleheaders.

“Right now, what I’m seeing is that we’re typically starting a lot slower, and so the first game of the day we’re not getting our at bats started as fast as I’d like,” Campbell said. “The second game we start hitting and so we need to be more prepared to start faster.”

The variety of arms Campbell has at his disposal in the circle are an asset, he said. Frazier, Hailey, Gauldin and Abby Williams gives the first-year coach different styles to help him adjust to specific game situations. Gauldin went 2-6 in 10 starts last spring but also was the victim of 28 unearned runs. There isn’t a normal No. 1 or 2 pitcher at the moment for the Lady Pats but Campbell hopes to narrow down a consistent rotation by conference play.

“To me, it plays to an advantage, because it’s a different look for the batter,” said Campbell of his different style of pitching. “It’s about changing speeds, changing locations and we have a good mixture. I know they haven’t had a lot of time on the mound, but it’s great to have a variety of arms to go to.

“I’m going to try to give them as much exposure as I can during the non conference games so we can find our rotation for conference play.”

Defense is the only area of concern, Campbell said. The outfield has little experience and the coach said it may take some time to fit the right unit together. Once Reynolds is added to the fold, she will take over at first base and that will help give more flexibility to the outfield arrangement, he added.

PHCC opened the season with a pair of losses to NCAA, Division III Guilford College and fell 8-0 to fellow DIII member Ferrum College in the first of two games with the Panthers on Sunday (Feb.28). Game 2 of the series was led by the Patriots 11-6 before rain postponed the game after three innings.

The softball team faces Ferrum again in a doubleheader Friday (Feb. 26) starting at noon at Martin Field in Martinsville. It then plays nine of 11 games at home during the month of March.

 

 

 

 

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