By Rick Mauch
Softball and baseball coaches across the land will attest that success in the spring begins in the fall. And a big part of that success is meshing the returning players and the new recruits.
"I think we did very well with the class we brought in this year. They are talented and energetic about being Coyotes!" exclaimed Weatherford College softball coach Haylee Williams.
The Coyotes brought in three transfers and 11 freshmen, Williams said.
"I think we strengthened our pitching staff and the power in our lineup the most," she said, noting that three pitchers were brought in to complement the three returners in the circle.
Back are Teoni Lamb (Kurrajong, Australia), Chloe Sales (Ewa Beach, Hawaii) and Amelia Hatthorn (Danbury, Texas). The trio led the Coyotes to a 27-22 record and a deep run in the Region V North Tournament.
Williams said transfer Averie Gunther will join the team from the University of Arkansas - Monticello.
"We originally offered her out of high school, and after spending a year at UAM she decided she wanted to be a Coyote," Williams said.
At UAM, Gunther appeared in 18 games and started three, posting a 4-3 record with one save. In 40 innings pitched she struck out 29 and walked 20.
In addition, Williams recruited freshmen pitchers Mikayla Marrujo from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Corina McClure from Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. At Volcano Vista, Marrujo was 4-1 with a team-leading 2.42 earned run average. McClure had originally planned to play at Fontbonne University in Missouri.
"These two have a lot of room to grow and we are excited to see their progression this fall," she said.
Along with the pitching, Williams said, "We should have more power in the lineup than we did last year, in addition to keeping some speed and gadget type players in there as well to put pressure on the defense."
A highlight among position players was landing freshman Jacinta Fonoti, a utility player from Mililani, Hawaii.
When recruiting freshmen or deciding to accept transfers, Williams said she looks for someone competitive, has good energy and who simply loves to play the game.
"We look for players who want to be here and want to work, players that want to be coached, and always striving for excellence in whatever they are doing, even if it's tying your shoes," she said.
And if you think they're waiting until the spring for stout competition, think again. The scrimmages in the fall may not count in the standings, but Williams is definitely paying attention to them as she is already beginning preparations for the spring roster.
"The fall definitely has some good softball. We will play a variety of opponents from select teams (travel ball) all the way up to NCAA Division I powerhouses such as the University of North Texas," she said. "This gives us a chance to work on things, compete at a high level in order to be ready to take on the toughest JUCO conference in the spring, and an opportunity for our players to showcase their skills for four-year schools in hopes of transferring."
And part of growing together is working together outside the softball diamond. Her team will once again participate in Safe Halloween, an annual event put on by the college for area trick-or-treaters. They will also help with the Coyote Chase Race and with the Challenger and Miracle Leagues for special needs young athletes.
"I love the fall, it's a fun time watching the team grow in skill but mostly watching them gel as a whole and grow together," Williams said. "We have a lot of work to do in the fall but it's more about the process and less about results in the fall."