Guilford Softball steps up to the plate for 2017 season
When head Softball coach Dennis Shores started coaching at Guilford in 2007, the softball team averaged about 17 attendees per game.
“Now we have seating for over 150, and typically they’re all filled up,” said coach Shores.
This shift can be attributed to the efforts of coach Shores and the players. When he began, Guilford Softball was winning about nine games per season. He was able to coach the team to a school record of 29 wins in a season, and last year’s team to 25 wins.
“They’re very focused,” said coach Shores, discussing his players.
He also describes them as enjoyable, prepared and hard-working. Coach Shores looks to call his team the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) champions following this season.
The team came in fifth place in last year’s tournament, dropping to Lynchburg College, and finishing 8-10 in ODAC and 25-18 overall. Guilford’s overall batting average was .339, the second highest in the conference.
“We played hard, we played well,” coach Shores said. “We got knocked out by one run, so… it was a very competitive tournament.”
With over 20 returning players, including six seniors, coach Shores’ hopes for the season are high.
“We’re working hard,” coach Shores said. “We brought them back the week before school started to make sure that they’re prepared.”
Guilford kicks off its season on Saturday, Feb. 11 with an away game at Meredith College, and a home game on Feb. 12 against Salem College.
“I’m excited,” said senior second baseman Caroline Barnette. “I think we’re going to be good.”
Other team members echoed Barnette’s hopeful sentiments.
“I think we will do really well this year,” said sophomore pitcher and outfielder Makayla Carver. “I hope to come home with a conference championship, and maybe make it pretty far in the NCAAs, if not rank.”
Sophomore first baseman Jordan Starke is optimistic about the season and the ability of the team’s first-years.
“I think we have a really good chance of doing better than we did last year,” said Starke. “A lot of the (first-years) are utility players — they’re pretty strong hitters. And we have a lot of our returning pitchers.”
Utility players can be very useful to a team since they are able to play multiple different positions. However, with 27 players on the team, it can be hard for the girls to find playing time.
“I think a weakness is the number of girls we carry,” said assistant softball coach Anna Mitchell, who is entering her third season with the team. “They’re all solid athletes and we just can’t put all (27) of them out there at one time. I think that’s the hardest part, because any of them could start any given day.”
Despite this weakness, coach Mitchell believes that the team stands a fighting chance in placing in the top three in the ODAC tournament and even going on to the NCAAs — something Guilford Softball has never done before — especially after last year’s victory against Randolph-Macon during the tournament.
“We beat them three to nothing,” said coach Mitchell. “That’s just a team that we had struggled beating the past few years, and that was a big win.”
“It was definitely a confidence booster for us, to compete at the level we did against Randolph-Macon,” echoed Carver.
The team accredits this victory to hard work, focus and tuning out distractions.
“I think we know that when we get to practice, we have to get all of our stuff done in order to be successful,” Carver said. “(Coach Shores) knows that we know when to get serious and when we can goof off.”
However, coach Shores still admires the team’s chemistry.
“It’s a very, very enjoyable team out of all the teams that I’ve coached here, and this will be my 11th team,” said coach Shores. “Probably this is the best team as far as getting along, working hard together and not having class divide from seniors to (first-years).”
With the season beginning this weekend, preparation time for the team is almost over.
“I think they still have a little bit of tweaking to do,” said Mitchell. “I just look forward to having a winning season.”