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Bulletin: Softball looks to live up to hype

February 8, 2013
Shown above is the 2013 Patrick Henry Community College softball team. Team members pictured are: (front row, from left) Sha’Quayla Davis, Suzie Rodriguez, Lindsey Leonard, Emily Dunkum and Bridget Farmer; (middle row, from left) Samantha Demsko, Samantha Barton, Allison Pentony, Lindsey Packard, Randi Jo Coffey and Katelyn Lewis; (back row, from left) head coach Kathleen Brown, Ali Romero, Tessa Bunting, Nikkia Logan, Erin McCarthy, Josie Fitzgerald, Mary Skillman, Whitney Catterton. Not pictured is assistant coach John Felts.

Shown above is the 2013 Patrick Henry Community College softball team. Team members pictured are: (front row, from left) Sha’Quayla Davis, Suzie Rodriguez, Lindsey Leonard, Emily Dunkum and Bridget Farmer; (middle row, from left) Samantha Demsko, Samantha Barton, Allison Pentony, Lindsey Packard, Randi Jo Coffey and Katelyn Lewis; (back row, from left) head coach Kathleen Brown, Ali Romero, Tessa Bunting, Nikkia Logan, Erin McCarthy, Josie Fitzgerald, Mary Skillman, Whitney Catterton. Not pictured is assistant coach John Felts.

By CHRIS PRIDE – Bulletin Sports Writer | Friday, February 8, 2013

Coach Brown has roster with plenty of new faces

The 2012 season for the Patrick Henry Community College softball team was a historic one for the Patriots.

In addition to having Carly Schmidt, the Region X Player of the Year, PHCC also won its first ever Region X championship after defeating rival Surry Community College in the conference tournament. The Patriots then were swept by Illinois Central College in the District P tournament, denying them a trip to the NJCAA College World Series.

So where does the program go from here? With a preseason ranking of 14th in Division II of the National Junior College Athletic Association, Kathleen Brown’s answer is forward.

Entering her fifth season as head coach, Brown looks to continue to push the PHCC softball program to new heights. And despite having a fresh set of faces this season, she said her expectations are just as high as they usually are.

“If we play to our potential we can definitely repeat and win our conference, but only if we play to our potential,” Brown said. “I’m confident of this group, and feel that if we continue to improve throughout the season, the excitement level will remain high. I look for big things, we just need to remain patient.”

The Patriots get their 2013 season underway today as they head to South Carolina for the weekend. They will play a trio of doubleheaders starting with Spartanburg Methodist, followed by twin bills against USC Sumter and USC Salkehatchie.

“For us to get that kind of recognition is great for the program,” Brown said of the preseason ranking. “It makes us work harder to sustain that ranking, because the first 14 games, we play are against Division I teams. We won’t get a more accurate assessment of that ranking until we get into conference play.”

But, while last year’s team ranked as high as 16th, finished with 34 wins and was two wins away of making a first trip to the World Series, big shoes must be filled this season to get back there again. The loss of Schmidt — the team’s leading hitter — and all-Region X pitcher Rachel Hawks will be especially tough to fill. Having only two returning sophomores of five that saw consistent playing time last season also gives this year’s team a whole new look.

Brown said while she can’t necessarily replace the individual talent each player brought to the table, collectively, this year’s team has more potential. Brown said she has a more consistent lineup — with contact hitters up and down the lineup. Freshman Allison Pentony will look to replace Schmidt at catcher and the offensive void she created. Freshman Mary Skillman has the power ability of Schmidt, and Brown looks to have her supply some protection in the middle of the lineup. Fellow freshman Lindsey Packard is a contact hitter, and the goal this season, Brown said, was to get more people on base and manufacture runs instead of relying on the big hit.

“I think our team this year has a way different look than it has in the past,” Brown said. “We’ve relied more on our pitching to keep us in the game where we could score four or five runs and win. This year we’re going to have to score seven, eight or nine runs to win, but I think we have a lot more contact hitters.

“It’s all about finding that offensive production that’s not necessarily home runs. Do we need to steal more bases, get more base hits? It may come down to simply getting more people on base and consistently produce every inning.”

In the circle Brown hopes freshman Samantha Barton can develop into the type of pitcher Hawks was. Brown isn’t expecting Barton to rack up the strikeouts like Hawks did, but rather, remain steady and constant while allowing the offense to put enough runs on the board.

There is a lack of college-level experience for the Patriots this spring. With the majority of girls playing on travel teams throughout the course of their respective high school careers, Brown said the real challenge will be how the new faces adapt to a college schedule with a slew of doubleheaders. Knowing her team will lose games, Brown believes that the team will be mentally tough enough to withstand the ups and downs of a 50-plus game season.

Starting with its best ever preseason rank, last year’s PHCC softball team set a rather high bar. With high expectations in 2013, Brown acknowledged that it may take time for the team to full grasp what exactly is expected of them.

“Because we’ve had success, everyone in the region expects us to be good if not better than last year,” Brown said. “The new girls I don’t think know exactly what we’re playing for yet. Once we take our hits in the nonconference, I think they’ll understand more about what we’re playing for this season.”

PHCC’s home opener is Mar. 2 against Pittsburgh Community College.

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