Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

February 11, 2013

CHS Softball Preview: Tigers return experienced team

Get Tigers softball coach Elizabeth Collier talking about each one of her players, and the conversation usually comes back to one word.

Improvement.

To a player, the Tigers have made them, and that’s why Corsicana is a contender for the District 16-4A title.

Collier started five freshmen and two sophomores last year, so the Tigers have a roster full of players that are a year wiser.

“We’re returning 10 of 13 girls,” Collier said. “We have several key players who have gotten better. They’ve gotten stronger. They’ve bought into the team family.”

Softball is a pitcher-dominanated sport and the Tigers have their top two hurlers back — senior Raylee Smithart and junior Sidney Kirk.

Kirk dealt with injury problems last season that kept her from being able to throw until the first week of March. She was limited to a certain amount of pitches per game and per week, and still wasn’t full strength even though she had a 2.55 ERA.

Kirk had a strong offseason and played this summer. She can really hit. She batted .446 with 36 RBIs last season.

“We changed a lot of our offseason and Sidney has gotten stronger,” Collier said. “All of our players have a lot more strength.”

Smithart not only is a quality pitcher but she also was one of Corsicana’s hottest hitters for a stretch last season. She batted .358 with 28 runs scored.

“Having Raylee and Sidney back at full strength, that makes it a little better,” Collier said.

The Tigers’ team defense should be a strength. Begin with center fielder Katy Polk, who was last year’s Golden Circle Defensive Player of the Year. Polk had a .976 fielding percentage and has a strong arm in the outfield. She can run too. She had 18 stolen bases to go with a .467 batting average last year.

Kelsie Triplett will play left field — she scored 28 runs last year. There’s a good battle going on in right field between McKayla Goodwin and Jasmine Estelle.

“Our outfield is fast,” Collier said. “We can cover ground.”

Corsicana’s most improved player could be sophomore catcher Leeah Seth. “I can’t even put a number on her improvement,” Collier said. Seth joined the Tigers late last year because of basketball. She’s didn’t have that issue this year.

“She’s become so much smarter behind the plate,” Collier said. “She understands why we pitch what we pitch in certain situations.”

Ashley Spence, a sophomore, will replace Katie Cook at shortstop. Spence had 17 RBIs and played solid defense.

“You can still see her youth,” Spence said. “She gets to the ball and she’s quick of her feet.”

Sophomore Jourdan Bruce goes from the outfield to second base. Kirk and Smithart will split time at third base depending who is pitching. Senior Maddie Andrews is back in the softball program and will start at first base.

A year older and wiser, Collier expects a better team, especially at the plate, where the Tigers struggled to score runs at crucial times.

“I feel like our offensive game will be a lot stronger,” Collier said. “A lot of the girls have learned pitch selection and where to put the ball and where to hit it. We’ve learned to produce runs and not just hit for ourselves.”

 

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