By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
The Glynn Academy and Brunswick High fast-pitch softball teams are set to swing into a new season this weekend.
And, both teams will take the field under the leadership of two new coaches.
At Glynn, Dawn Ketcham is now the head coach of the Lady Terrors. She takes over for Jim Horton who stepped down after last season.
Ketcham coached previously at Risley Middle, but has been a longtime high-school and middle-school coach in Glynn County. She coached at Brunswick during the transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch in the 1990s.
At Brunswick, Nicole Bailey takes over for Brian Crawford who is also the school’s baseball coach. Bailey comes to town from metro Atlanta where she was the head coach at Hampton High the last four years. She led the team to the Class AAAA semifinals last fall.
Glynn is scheduled to play two games Friday at home, but the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms throughout the day. The team’s first game against Howard is slated for 4:30 p.m. while a game against Wayne County is scheduled for 6:30.
Brunswick is scheduled to open on Saturday with three home games, but more rain is possible into the weekend. The Lady Pirates are supposed to also play Howard at 10 a.m, Wayne at noon and Charlton County at 4 p.m.
Both the Lady Terrors and Lady Pirates will attempt to return to the playoffs this season after making the field for the Class AAAAAA state tournament last fall despite having losing records. Both teams dropped their first-round series on the road.
Glynn goes into the 2019 campaign with a young team that includes only two seniors. But Ketcham, who has been working with the players since March, likes the Lady Terrors’ potential.
“I’ve told the girls that I have confidence in them, but they need to have the same confidence in themselves that I do,” the new coach said.
The Lady Terrors will rely heavily on senior pitcher Annie Chance, and Ketcham likes having her in the circle.
“She told me she would do whatever we need her to do, and we need her there,” Ketcham said. “She throws strikes, keeps the ball around the strike zone. That’s what we need.”
Behind her in the circle are sophomore pitchers Mallory Merrill and Elizabeth Dyal who also will pitch for the junior varsity team this fall.
Behind the plate, GA plans to use junior Kenzie Alves and freshman Madysen Wilborn. However, one of those players will open the season at first base while junior would-be starter Madison King is nursing an injury.
Also around the field, Glynn’s second baseman is expected to be junior Jordan Wallen while the shortstop will be sophomore Anna Lee Mancil.
Chance can play third base when she is not pitching while freshman Katie Wagner is also listed at third.
In the outfield, Glynn returns senior center fielder Alexis Peters. Also, sophomore Cassie Naldrett is listed in right while sophomores Ali Grace Williams and Leilani Watts are listed in left field.
“I feel really good about our defense,” Ketcham noted. “We don’t have a lot of depth, but most of our players can play more than one position. So, we can move them around. We do have some speed in the outfield and some pretty good arms. On the infield, we are solid up the middle. Katie is doing a good job at third and is not afraid to get dirty, and I’m confident in the girls we have at first base.”
Ketcham said the Lady Terrors have some speed at the top of the batting order and some big hitters in the middle of the lineup who can potentially do some damage with runners on base.
“We’ll play some small-ball, too,” she said.
Across town, Bailey has been hard at work with her new BHS team since getting here in June. She has spent the summer trying to put her stamp on the program and says the Lady Pirates are very much a work in progress.
“It’s a culture change, new coach and new system,” she said. “We’ve really tried to focus on fundamentals and our system and have seen some growth.
“We’re just trying to speed up the game, play more small-ball, put pressure on the defense. We’re teaching them the game and want them to become students of the game. It’s definitely a process.”
In the pitching circle, the Lady Pirates have been working with three players who will log innings for them this fall. Those are promising sophomore Erica Bentley, junior Lauren Peterson and senior Rachel Eubank.
Behind the plate, BHS plans to go with freshman Kameron Igou while junior Molly Williford recovers from an injury. Igou can also play third base.
On the infield, Eubank is slated to start at first while the second base and shortstop spots could be filled from a group of players including juniors Kalyn Harris and Raelyn DePratter and Peterson. Currently, Jalia Hubbard is expected to start at third.
Around the outfield, senior Alyssa Giles is the starter in center field. The third batter in the BHS order, Giles is committed to play at Georgia State University in Atlanta after high school.
In left, the Lady Pirates could go with Harris, fellow junior Jaleah Rhett or freshman Anna Kate Owens who also plays first base.
Any of those players could also see time in right field as could seniors JaQuayla Pickens and Marquesia Heidt.
Bailey said the Lady Pirates have improved on defense throughout summer practice, but there is still work to be done to play sound ball in the field.
“When errors happen, the snowball effect still takes place,” the coach noted. “We also need to get better at making decisions, but I’m happy with what we’re seeing so far.”
Bailey said the Brunswick batting order features some potential pop in the middle slots with some speed at the top, but right now the team is struggling to produce consistently from the top of the lineup to the bottom.
The new coach hopes the Lady Pirates will develop throughout this coming season and continue to make progress as a program over the coming years.
“As long as the kids grow and get fundamentally better and that growth continues, eventually we’ll start winning more ballgames,” Bailey said.