Sanderson steps in as Gadsden State softball coach

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Refurbish it, and they will come.

For both his team and his facilities, such is the wish of Gadsden State first-year softball coach Shane Sanderson. 

With one sophomore and 14 freshmen on the roster, Sanderson is well aware that his inaugural Cardinal squad will experience some growing pains this season. Gadsden State is 1-4 so far this year.

“The biggest difference between high school and college [softball] is that 99 percent of the routine plays get made,” he said. “But you’ve also got to hit with power at this level. We’ll have some trouble scoring runs, so we’re going to have to pitch well and play smart, fundamental softball on offense. Our infield play and our pitching are pretty good, but our outfield play is not where it needs to be. But we have some kids that come from winning programs, and we’re going to be able to compete. I love these kids and I’m blessed to be able to work with them.”

Sanderson, who teaches math at Emma Sansom Middle School, had to hit the recruiting trail in a hurry after he signed on in July.

“I had to scramble to sign nine kids before the first week in August,” he said. “We’re as good as we’re going to get for right now.”

In his lone season as Sardis High varsity girls softball coach in 2011, Sanderson guided the Lady Lions to a 32-20 record, the program’s first-ever Etowah County Tournament championship, a second place finishes in the area and regional tournaments and a fifth-place showing in the AHSAA Class 3A state tournament. He was named Class 3A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Before coming to Sardis, Sanderson won two state titles in eight years as softball coach at Pleasant Valley.

After he left Sardis, Sanderson spent a year teaching at Talladega before spending the past three years at Emma Sansom. 

“People have asked over the past few years of when I would start coaching again, and I told them that I was waiting for the right opportunity. I definitely feel that’s the case here at Gadsden State.”

Due to weather and field conditions, the Lady Cardinals were unable to play a home game in 2014. Along with assistant coach Jeff Chamblee, Sanderson has spent the better part of the past several months upgrading Gadsden State’s softball field, including a new wooden fence, new foul poles and a leveling of the infield and outfield. 

“It’s been a lot of self-sacrifice and a lot of time on the part of me and Jeff, but we feel it’s well worth it,” said Sanderson. “We wanted it to be a presentable college softball field, and we want people to notice that when they come to the games. We’re also looking to improve the outside facilities at some point. It’s a good ball park; it’s just been let go for a while.”

The team’s lone upperclassman is pitcher Bethany Chamblee, a 2013 Sardis High graduate. She recently signed a scholarship with Missouri Valley College. 

“Bethany’s a quiet type of leader,” said Sanderson. “She’ll also play some at first and third base. She played for me in high school, so I’m real familiar with her. She also has a 3.9 GPA, so she’s a very smart kid.”

The freshman class includes shortstop Chandler Harden from Glencoe, first baseman Jadie Fobbus from Sardis, catcher/outfielder Mallory Nunnelly and third baseman Carmen Hadder from Oakman, outfielder MacKenna Mardis from Appalachian, second baseman/outfielder Hannah Grace Sherill from Danville, third baseman Brittney Tidmore and outfielder Hannah Hornbuckle from Collinsville, pitcher/first baseman Karlee Brown from Rogersville, shortstop Madison Shanks from Alexandria, pitcher/outfielder Korey Crowley from Crossville, catcher/second baseman Morgan Cobb from White Plains, second baseman Kayleigh Deis from Albertville and outfielder Katelyn Williams from Susan Moore. 

“MacKenna puts the ball in play really well, so we’re looking for her to be a pinch hitter,” said Sanderson. “Hannah Grace was my last signee, and she’s starting in rightfield for us. Brittney’s probably our best third baseman right now. 

“Karleee played basketball (at Gadsden State) last year, and she and Bethany will share most of the mound time for us. She also can hit the ball really well. Madison’s our shortstop and our leadoff hitter who probably will hit for the highest average on the team. She’s got a great natural swing. 

“Chandler can really hit the ball and will play DP for us a lot. I’ve got a lot of confidence in her at the plate. Korey plays centerfield and is our No. 3 pitcher. When Bethany or Karlee need a break, we can bring her in and she’ll get the job done. Hannah is a pretty decent outfielder, and she’s doing an outstanding job of putting the ball into play and creating havoc on the bases. 

“I’ve coached some awesome players over the years, and I don’t think “I’ve ever coached a shortstop who was a fundamentally sound as Madison is. Honestly, we’d be in trouble without Morgan at catcher. She has a high softball IQ and knows how to call a game.

“Jadie is another Sardis girl whom I coached, and she’s salt of the earth. I can’t have enough kids like her. Kayleigh is very solid at second base. She’s smooth on turning the double plays and force play and she can swing the stick, too. Katelyn Williams also played basketball here last year. She has a lot of speed so we’ll pinch run her a lot. Carmen came her as a pitcher but she’s at third base right now.”

Gadsden State’s first ACCC game is on March 14 at home against Wallace-Hanceville. 

“I don’t think Gadsden State has had a winning season in several years and hasn’t made the state tournament in a while,” said Sanderson. “There’s 16 teams in the ACCC, and the top six in each division go to the playoffs. So our main goal this year is to make it to the state tournament. Hopefully we can get down to Alabaster at the end of April and do the best we can and make some noise.” 

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