By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
For the first time since Gadsden State Community College was thought to be losing its softball program, the Cardinals will have a lot of experience for the 2014 season with 14 sophomores.
“When they told us we could be shut down, it killed recruiting,” coach Jeanne Kerr said. “Girls would say they had heard we were going to lose the team and sign somewhere else. Last year was the first year that we were able to sign a full class.
“We still don’t have the balance (of sophomores and freshmen) that we want, but we’re a whole lot closer – and we will have a lot of playing time experience this year.”
Four freshmen on the team, and two of those – Courtney Bolton from Westbrook Christian and Sardis’ Bethany Chamblee – are from Etowah County schools.
“Westbrook doesn’t have a softball program, but Courtney played with the Birmingham Vipers,” Kerr said. “She slipped under the radar. If she had played high school ball, she might be playing at a four-year school. She has good style and will play a lot.”
Bolton underwent elbow surgery but is back to throwing at full speed.
Kerr said that Chamblee was Sardis’ main pitcher last year and will “pitch a lot of innings for us.”
The Cardinals also boast two Etowah County products in Southside’s Katie Garner and Sardis’ Dreema Holliday. Both are sophomores.
“Katie was our main starting pitcher last year and she worked hard all su-mmer, so we’re expecting a lot of innings out of her,” Kerr said. “Dreema played mostly outfield last year but we’ve been teaching her to play second base. If nothing else, we want her to be able to be the backup second baseman.”
With so many Alabama Community College Conference schools not playing softball anymore, scheduling has been a bit more of a problem for Kerr. She said that playing teams from Tennessee and Georgia have alleviated that problem, however, as it is closer to go to those schools than to a lot of the ACCC South Division cities.
Gadsden State opens its season today (Feb. 7) with a pair of games at the Georgia Highlands Tournament.
The Cardinals’ home opener will be Feb. 15 at against Motlow State.