ECHS softball opening day Feb. 21

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Youth will define the softball program at Escambia County High School this season with the majority of players residing in the ninth and tenth grades.

The Lady Blue Devils softball team opened practice on Monday with a positive outlook, but knowing the team’s success lies in the hands of several young players.

Upperclassmen on the squad consist of five players with four seniors and one junior, but the core of the group sit with sophomores and freshman that head softball coach Daryl Otwell has seen very little of.

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With such a young team taking the field, opening up things at the ground level is important for the team.

“We are going to begin with our fundamentals and get our basics down,” Otwell said. “With young girls like this, you want to start from the ground up. They will be taking groundballs and a lot of fly ball work. We will also focus on the short game this season. Once we get those things down, we will just go from there.”

Looking at the strengths of the team, it is easy to see where the experience lies.

Last season, the Lady Blue Devils struggled from the pitching circle, but several innings were thrown by a freshman. Behind the pitcher, things look more promising with starters returning to those positions.

With a strong infield, the new players will be relied on to pick up slack in the outfield, Otwell said.

“Returning wise, we have Kaylee (Cox) starting at pitcher and we have another young talented pitcher in Taylor Hill,” he said. “Our entire infield returns, so we are obviously looking at that as our strength. We are going to be looking for outfielders, but we will need some of our younger players to step up for us.”

With the defensive side of the team looking to have potential, things are questionable the plate.

Finding hits could be a struggle for the Lady Blue Devils with several girls not ever taking a pitch at the high school level.

The work put in during summer and fall workouts will be put to the test, Otwell said.

“Our weak spot is going to be offensively,” he said. “I’ll have several ninth graders that will have to play, and I have never seen any of them on the field. The girls have worked hard through summer workouts and during the fall, so having such a young group, we will be tested at the plate.”

The Lady Blue Devils open up the season with games against W.S. Neal.

Last year against the Lady Eagles, ECHS had trouble getting hits.

W.S. Neal returns their pitcher, which is one reason Otwell said he scheduled his team to play them to open the season.

“We open up against W.S. Neal with our first two games,” he said. “I’m not sure where we stack up match up wise with such a young group. Things will really be seen once we get into game situations like that. Last year, we struggled against their pitcher, so we will have a good test early on against their team. We are looking to compete this season, and should make strides during the season. Hopefully, the ball will fall our way.”

The Lady Blue Devils take on the W.S. Lady Eagles on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in East Brewton. Games begin at 4:30 p.m. with the junior varsity.