Devils, Lady Devils spring into action

Published 7:25 pm Monday, February 19, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
Atmore baseball ready to pounce into playoffs
Pitching will be the key to the success of the Escambia County High School baseball Blue Devils, according to ECHS head coach Keith Nall.
"We are looking good, especially in the pitching area," Nall said. "It is an area where we have a lot of experience and we are looking for that to be our strong point this year."
Nall lost six seniors last year, and five of those six were starters. But Nall said he would rely on two seniors to lead the team in 2007.
"Jonathan McNeill and Cory Flowers will be the two best bats I have coming back this year," Nall said. "Those are the strongest two I have right now swinging the bats."
The returning starters will be Flowers at first base, McNeill on the mound and at shortstop and Justin Rolin at third base, but other than those three guys, Nall said the rest of the lineup is fairly new.
Senior Kevin Green, Flowers, and sophomores Cody Vickrey and Michael Thomas will join McNeill on the pitching staff for the Blue Devils.
The seven seniors on the squad are, McNeill, Flowers, Green, Justin Boykin, Brent Bell, Guyel Martin and Tim Bright.
This team is a special group of guys to Nall for many reasons.
"This team works hard and they come to practice every day and give their best effort," Nall said. "And I have had a few of these kids for quite a while, so they have been around me for a while and they know what I want. They are working hard and time will tell how good we can be."
Nall said the obvious goal of reaching the playoffs was number one on the Blue Devils list of goals for the season, but he said there are some other stars they are shooting for.
"We want to be above .500 this year," he said. "The last couple of years we have been below, but if we can reach the playoffs that would be great."
For the .500 mark to be reached, Nall said certain players have to step up.
"If Jonathan and Kevin step up like they have the past couple years I don't see us having a problem," Nall said. "And we need to cut down on the amount of errors we made last year. And if we can do that we can be successful. The hitting will always come around."
Nall said if all the things happen how he believes they will this year, the Blue Devils could make the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Nall said he wants to have a successful season and the ultimate goal is to be playing after the regular season is over. But before the regular season can be over, it has to begin and the Blue Devils open the season against Spanish Fort Tuesday in the Spanish Fort Tournament. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The team will also host Flomaton Thursday at 3:30 p.m. as part of the tournament. They will travel back to Spanish Fort Friday for another round of games against Spanish Fort and Flomaton.
ECHS softball changing ways, ready to go
Under the leadership of first-year head coach Duree Madden, the Escambia County High School softball Lady Devils will look to improve upon the 6-12 record of one year ago. Madden said her hopes for the team are looking good so far.
"The team is looking great," Madden said. "We have a lot of young ones who are out here with us who are showing improvements every day. There is a lot of raw talent that we will tweaked throughout the year."
The team will not be heavy on seniors, with only five, but Madden said she believes those five will lead the team in the right direction.
"They have come out here very willing to work and do what we are asking," Madden said. "The hustle is great and the girls are showing extreme confidence in themselves."
The team returns starting pitcher Raven Culliver, left fielder Leslie Lyons, catcher Brooke Bell and center fielder Courtney English.
Culliver shouldered the full load of pitching duties in 2006, but Madden will have some other arms to relieve Culliver this year.
"Michaela Norman, a ninth grader, will definitely be a key player," Madden said. "Also Minika Smith has been practicing pitching and has been showing improvement each day. I am very excited to have these three pitchers."
Madden is optimistic about the Lady Devils chances to win this season.
"We have the potential and the want to be the dominant team in our area," she said.
Every team has goals and the ECHS softball team is no different.
"Our main goal is to not only improve our record from last year, but to also bring back the pride in lady sports here in Atmore," Madden said.
Madden will be assisted on the diamond by Steve Tucci and her father Rankin Madden.
The Lady Blue Devils open the season Tuesday in Evergreen against Hillcrest. The first pitch is set for 4 p.m. The team will also travel to East Brewton for a game against W.S. Neal Thursday at 4 p.m.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox