Goshen girls move up to fastpitch

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Sports Writer

Springtime means the rebirth of life and the prospects for a fresh start to begin a new season.

Such is the case with the Goshen High School Lady Eagles as they begin their first year of fast pitch softball in the 2001 season. With nearly every school in the state of Alabama going to the fast pitch game as it becomes emphasized more on the college level, GHS hopes this move will pave the way for more student-athletes to be able to earn scholarships in the future.

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Second year head coach Deanne Hughes said she’s been extremely pleased with the attitude the Lady Eagles have displayed throughout the difficult transition.

"We’re a lot better than we were a week ago," Hughes said. "First off we lost seven games from last year’s team. This year I have one junior, and other than that we’re 10th grade and below. With us starting a new program, we’re a very young team our starters in grades 7 through 10. We made a lot of strives in pitching this week. From one week to the next it’s improved because their mechanics have been corrected."

One area that all good fast pitch teams have is a strong infield because of numerous balls which are hit on the ground. Hughes said it’s important for her infield to be the strength of the defense throughout the season.

"We have key positions such as catching, shortstop and second base who have come together," Hughes said. "We don’t know who will start at those positions, but the execution (at practice) is getting better. We have some girls who need to step up and take those positions. We have to put our best athlete at catcher. The girls are starting to jell in that those who play the infield know what to do."

The Lady Eagles, who lost their first game in mid-February against Dothan, return three starters from a squad that finished 4-14 last year. The most talented player among the trio returning is sophomore Candi Faulkner. Faulkner, who has spent several years playing fast pitch softball on the recreation level in Troy, is an outstanding utility player whose capable of playing any position.

"Her athletic ability speaks for itself," Hughes said. "With the ability to play different positions, she inspires all of the girls to do whatever it takes to get to the next level. She’s a very good leader. We’ll miss her at shortstop, but I’d be crazy not to put her at shortstop. "

During slow pitch last season, Faulkner led the Lady Eagles in batting with a .450 average and has played on a state title team during her rec career.

Sophomore Hope Wheeler returns and will see some action behind the plate and in center field. Hughes said she hopes Wheeler comes around at the catcher’s position so that Faulkner can move to shortstop.

The other returning starter is sophomore Amanda Drivas, who has moved from right field to second base for the Lady Eagles.

"She has good speed and in fast pitch you have to get someone who will be fast in the infield," Hughes said.

A player who has lots of promise that didn’t start playing last year due to suffering from mono is sophomore Ashley Miniard. Miniard has increased the speed on her pitches and is expected to be one of the top hitters for the Lady Eagles.

Seventh grader Heather West is also expected to fill out the rotation for the Lady Eagles. Ninth grader Shae Flowers will see action at first base, while sophomore Candy Kilpatrick is expected to get the nod at third base. Freshman Courtney Blackmon is expected to see playing time at shortstop. Hughes said Blackmon has the best range of anyone on the team for the Lady Eagles.

The rest of the outfield will consist of freshman Christeen Ricks in left and center fielder Jessica Drivas. Seventh grader Megan Johnson, who has been one of the best hitters on the team in the preseason, will also see action in the outfield.

Hughes said she’s deeply concerned by the outfield’s lack of depth.

"The outfield is very weak because we don’t have any speed out there," Hughes said. "The name of the game is speed. But we need to have our fastest players and most athletic people in the infield because there’s so much more action in the infield in fastpitch."

The Lady Eagles will drop to 2A and will compete with several new fast pitch teams including Bayside Academy, Thorsby, Isabella and Marbury.

As far as the regular season is concerned, the Eagles will be playing games on the road and won’t play a game in Goshen until April. However, the Lady Eagles will be playing several games at the Troy SportsPlex during March including the prestigious Charles Henderson High School Tournament scheduled for March 15-16.