By Chris McCarthy/Editor
With only one sophomore on the roster this past spring, Scott Sanderson knew that his first season as Gadsden State softball coach would be a learning experience for both he and his players.
Most of the dust from the Lady Cardinals’ 14-39 season (7-17 in conference play) has settled, and Sanderson spent the past few months replenishing the roster through 10 scholarship signings and three walk-on invitations.
“I think that we’ll be much better defensively,” said Sanderson. “We also have a lot more pitching depth, so I feel pretty good where we’re at. But we’ve got to hit for a higher average and we’ve got to hit the ball over the fence a lot more. The defenses in this league are so good that you’ve got to hit 30 to 40 home runs to be competitive.”
Sanderson’s 2015 signing class included Etowah High outfielder Madison Bish-op, who helped the Lady Blue Devils post 31-9 record, win the area tournament and qualify for the North Regional Tournament.
“Madison came to a tryout that we had back in December, and I really like the way she played the outfield and I think she has a pretty decent stick,” said Sanderson. “She’ll definitely be competing for time in the outfield.”
Also inking with GSCC were outfielder Bailey Beam from Cleburne County, infielder Renee Bolduc from James Clemens, catcher Kaci Cochran from Tuscaloosa Academy, outfielder Taylor Payne from Cold Springs, pitcher Jaime Roberts from Collinsville, outfielder Tiffany Williams from Pleasant Valley and outfielder Amber Crabtree, infielder Scarlette Hester and pitcher Ashley Keith from Pisgah.
“Bailey has a little pop in her bat, and Renee is a very fundamentally sound infielder,” said Sanderson. “She really impressed me with her infield abilities, so she’s probably going to play second or third [base] for us. Kaci can also hit, and I see her right now as our No. 2 catcher. I like Taylor’s overall attitude and effort, and she’ll compete for time in the outfield. Jaime hit several home runs off of me in the tryout she came to and she’s a lefthanded pitcher, so she’ll be one of our four starters.
“Tiffany’s very fast, she puts the ball in play and just eats the ball up in the outfield. I really like her athletic ability. I’m looking for big things from Amber because she’s got pretty good speed and can put the ball in play. Scarlette has a lot of pop in her bat. I’m looking for her to hit and least 10 homes runs next year, if not more. Ashley pitched almost every inning [for Pisgah] this year and won over 30 ball games against some high-quality competition.”
Making the cut from the June 10 walk-on tryout was Gaston shortstop Abby Elrod, who helped the Lady Bulldogs go 24-18-2, win the Area 12 Tournament title, finish third at the North Central Regional Tournament and qualify for the state tournament.
Also picked were Cedar Bluff infielder Katie McGinnis and Sylvania catcher/first/baseman Ashton Peek.
“I like the way both Abby and Katie play the middle infield positions. Both girls are exceptionally fast, and I love their attitudes. Ashton has a good line-drive swing, and I’m looking forward to seeing her contribute.”
Gadsden State went 1-2 in the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament in May.
“Our only goal was to make the state tournament, and we did that,” said Sanderson. “We went 0-19 against the top five teams in the North [Division], but we played every one of those teams to one or two runs in at least one game in every series. But until we can compete consistently with [Wallace] Hanceville and Shelton [State] and Southern Union, we’re going to find ourselves in the same position.”