Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

February 7, 2014

GC Softball: Season Preview -- Corsicana's Tigers want to take care of unfinished business

Corsicana — Corsicana’s Sidney Kirk’s ready for the upcoming softball season.       

   She’s bringing her glove, her bat and a chip to the diamond this year. That’s right, a chip -- a chip about the size of Oklahoma.   

   “Yeah, we have a chip on our shoulders,’’ Kirk said. “And it’s a big one.’’

   Kirk’s still upset over last season. It wasn’t a bad year for the Tigers, who won 18 games, finished third in the district and made the playoffs.

  It just wasn’t what Kirk wanted, what she expected and what she was shooting for. She wanted a whole lot more.

   “I think we have some unfinished business,” Kirk said. “I think we should have done a lot better last year. We lost in the first round of the playoffs. When I was a freshman we made it to the third round, I’d like to go further than that this year.”

What else would you expect from Kirk, who plays the game with a big bat and an even bigger heart? She’s the kind of player who can carry a team, so adding a chip won’t be like adding another load as much as it’s adding to her motivation that’s growing faster than green grass in April.

Kirk’s the kind of player coaches love -- tough, talented and angry -- and Corsicana Coach Eliz Collier has a whole team that is not only anxious for the new season to start but hungry to make a statement this year.

“In 2011 we went 26-14,’’ said Collier, who is in her sixth year as the head coach at Corsicana. Her team three years ago that won 26 games was her best. This year’s group may be even better.

“I think this year’s team has the same attitude that team had,’’ Collier said. “This team doesn’t like to lose. They’re competitive. They compete against each other.

“And I think this team will hit better than that team did,’’ she said. “We have worked really hard at getting stronger, and we will be stronger in our lineup, one through nine. We have a deeper lineup. I’m excited about this year.’’

    The lineup is deeper and the addition of freshman pitcher Chelsea Vandiver has the young promise of helping a team that returns six starters who all want to make that deep run in the playoffs Kirk was talking about.

And then there’s Kirk.

Enough said. She does it all and does it better than most. She won 15 games on the mound and she hits like Muhammad Ali -- hard and often with a knockout swing for the fences.

She was not only the best hitter in District 16-4A as a junior but she was the All-Golden Circle Offensive Player of the Year and made the Class 4A all-state team.

She batted .606 for the season. That’s right, Six-OH-Six. She drove in 46 runs in 34 games and belted seven homers, including two in the playoff game. She’s the most dangerous hitter in this league, and why anyone in 16-4A pitches to her is a mystery.   

And now she’s playing with that nagging and growing chip that sits right there on her shoulder every time she swings the bat.

There’s more. The Tigers have speed on the bases and a lineup full of experience. Kirk will play first, third and see time on the mound, where she split time last year along with sophomore Carly Cates, who returns to pitch and lay first base. Collier has high hopes for Vandiver, a freshman pitcher who gives the Tigers a threesome that the Tigers three good arms and a different look from each.

“She’s got some spunk to her,’’ Collier said of Vandiver. “She throws hard. She adds to Sidney and Carly. Carly has some spin and the other two throw hard. They will complement each other.’’

The anchor to the team is back, too, Catcher Leeah Seth, a junior who is a three-year starter, batted .341 and drove in 20 runs last year. Most teams didn’t even try to run on her.

“I thought we were as good as the other teams in the district or better last year,” Seth said. “This year we have to capitalize on that. I think we can win the district.’’

Nacogdoches went unbeaten to win 16-4A last year and Whitehouse finished second and Corsicana was third in a tight race.

Kirk is still upset about that finish.

 “We were way better than we played,” she said. “When we didn’t win the district it hurt. It really hurt and still does hurt -- definitely.”

 The other three starters who are back and ready to make a run at a district title are Ashley Spence, a junior shortstop who hit .303, Jourdan Bruce, a junior second baseman who hit .258, and McKala Goodwin, a junior right fielder who hit .258. All three started as freshman and bring a ton of experience to the diamond.

    “Most of us have been playing together for three years,’’ Kirk said. “We are close and have more of a family atmosphere this  year because we’ve played together so long.’’

Collier has had a lot of success and will win her 100th game at some point this season. Her teams won 93 games in five years, but Kirk said it was upsetting that last year’s team didn’t get the 100th win.

“We wanted to get it for her,” Kirk said. “We were trying to get her the 100 wins. We should have accomplished that last year.’’

Collier knows ho good her team can be this season and admits they could make a run at winning the first district title for Corsicana in a dozen years.

“I feel like we’re going to be a real good defensive team,” Collier said. “And we will put the ball in play. We’re going to hit. We have a real good heart of the lineup. We can hit home runs but we don’t have to rely on that. We’re going to be somebody to fight for that first spot.’’

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