Patriots softball looking for success

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Despite a team short on senior experience and some uncertainty at catcher, the Pike Liberal Arts School softball team is primed and ready to start off the 2012 season.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Patriot lineup is behind the plate, where a possible shoulder tear has sidelined starting catcher Katie Ward for the first couple of weeks of the season.

“She’s out for two weeks for sure until we find out if it’s torn or not,” Patriots head coach Tim Davenport said. “So we’ll be starting a ninth grader Kayla Benton. She’s got a strong arm and a good glove and can play the field well.”

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Benton will be assisting a defense that the Patriots have spent a great deal of time improving, building off of last season and focusing on strengthening their fielding.

“Coming in this season defense was very important,” Davenport said. “We’ve sent more time on defense than anything else and have been moving people around trying to get some different looks. We played a scrimmage on Friday and had only two errors so it’s getting better.”

The Patriots will be led on the mound by sophomore Ellie Barron, who spent time at catcher last season and is now moving to pitcher.

Davenport believes Barron will be a strong competitor at the position and bring a winning attitude to the team.

“She pitched a little last year and is changing from catcher,” he said. “She’s a really good and capable pitcher and is a winner. She’ll find a way to win, has a lot of movement and can place the ball. She’s also very consistent and very coachable.”

The Patriots have also been working to tighten up their batting, and have a strong lineup coming from players such as Shelby Baggett, J.J. Jones, Barron and new addition to the team Lexi Pigott, who will also be starting at shortstop.

“We spent a lot more time in the cage than we did last year,” Davenport said. “We got in a lot of swings in and that’s something we try to do every day. We’re changing some things with our feet and hands but mostly we’ve been trying to get more swings in at practice.”

With the season starting on Saturday, Feb. 25, one of the biggest uncertainties the Patriots have coming is their opponent, Northside Methodist Academy.

Northside is a new addition to the Patriots league this season, and coach Davenport is excited at the chance to play them in the season opener.

“This is their first year in our league so we don’t know much about them,” he said. “They’ve won a state championship before and we’re excited about playing them. We’ve practiced a lot and that can get mundane after a while so the girls are ready to come out and play.”

Despite some uncertainties on the Patriot game plan the team seems capable of holding their own this season and boasts some solid potential, and with the season opener rapidly approaching the team will soon have a chance to show their capability.

“I think we’ve got a chance to have a good team this year,” Davenport said. “It’s all going to boil down to how much we focus and commit. We’ve got a good schedule but it’s going to be long and we’ve got a lot of road games. If we can handle the endurance we’ll be okay, we’re excited about a new season and everyone’s ready to play.”

The Patriots will play Northside in Dothan at 1p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25.