The spring Softball season is upon us and your GMC JC Bulldogs are off and running after opening up the season on the road in Florida. Before Coach Bunn and her squad left for Florida, I had a chance to interview her about the upcoming season and their attempt to 3-peat as the GCAA Conference Champions. The following is her responses:
It's that time of year again…what gets you excited about this year's group?
- "Every team and every season is different, I am excited to watch this year's team evolve and see where they can take us. The pressure is on to continue the winning tradition that we have developed over the last few seasons, so it will be a fun ride watching them grow as a team and continue that standard of excellence."
· Who are some key returners from last year's GCAA Conference Championship team?
- "All of our returners from last year's team brought something to the table that helped make us who we were as a team, no matter how big or small their role may have been. Some such as Carly Rigsbee, Brittany Lowe, Natalie Johnson, Taylor Krause and Kaleigh Sisolak had starting roles, while other such as Courtney Neild and Courtney Quigg had key pinch hits and Mckenzie Krause and Mamie Crawford both were huge as base runners for us at times. No contribution is too small. We are looking for those starters from last year to pick up where they left off at and even improve on last season's success. We are also looking to some other sophomores to step up and replace those holes left from last year's graduates."
· Who are some key FR to watch for?
- "Losing 7 starters from last season's team, we are going to have to have a lot of freshmen step up this season. We feel as if we have a good freshman class this year and a lot of versatility with them. All three of my pitchers this year are freshmen; Mackensie Poynter, Sarah Middleton and Hannah Henry. All three of them are going to play major roles in the success of our season. Lindsey South, Tara Downs, Kaedy Borst and Victoria Parker will pick up some of the speed that we lost from last year's team, while Lauren King and Cathleen Nugue will add some power to our lineup."
· Do you feel that a championship culture is now embedded into your program after the past two years?
- "One would like to hope so. A lot of that culture lies in the sophomores ability to get the freshmen to trust the process, since they have already been through it once. A lot of times at the two year level, with the constant turnaround of players, it is imperative that the leadership of the upperclassmen take charge and really help the coaching staff. As I said earlier, each team is different and with that comes different challenges and different coaching strategies that have to be used in order to get the most of the current team."
· Tell me about your schedule….a lot on the road early and then home late? Was that by design and if so, explain.
- "Yeah we are some travel warriors to begin the season. When we were scheduling our conference games for next year I was under the impression that we were switching home and away dates from the previous season, and some switched and some didn't want to switch, so we only have one home conference game during the first round. Thinking that we may get a chance to host the conference tournament again this season, having those home games late would have allowed us the time to get comfortable here before the tournament started. Now we are hoping that it just makes it difficult for other teams to come in here and beat us at home during the second half of the season. It is going to be a difficult task, but maybe it will allow us to come together as a team more, get some needed team bonding time in while on the road away from other distractions."
· What do you enjoy the most about coaching the collegiate student athlete?
- "I would have to say the relationships that you get to build with the student-athletes and watching them grow and develop both on and off the field. For a lot of them this is the first time that they are truly on their own and having to figure out who they are as individuals. It is rewarding to be the person that they turn to help them grow and develop through those times."
· What will your team need to do well to be successful this year?
- "They need to figure out what their team identity is going to be. Don't try to compare themselves to last year's team; which is at times difficult to do, mainly for the sophomores since they were a part of that team. Our lineup is going to evolve throughout the season so figuring out what each player's role is going to be and the quicker we can all accept those roles and get on the same page the better off we will be. I believe that our pitching is good enough to keep us in ball games; we are going to have to make the routine plays behind them and not allow big innings for the opposing teams. We are going to have to have timely hitting and take advantage when other teams make a mistake."
· What are, if any, concerns do you have about the season.
- "The tough start on the road; especially during conference play. Being on the road that much can take a toll on you, both physically and mentally. I believe that if we make it out of the first half still alive we will be alright." J
As must earlier the #18 NJCAA Bulldogs played 7 games in Clearwater FL last weekend. Coach Bunn's team went 3-4 playing a very difficult first weekend schedule. With a very young team, expectations were on the cautious side. As could be expected, the weekend was a roller coaster ride with some good and bad results. The following is a recap of the games.
GAME #1 GMC vs. Northwest Florida
Game 1 started with the Bulldogs jumping out to a 4-0 lead and holding it until the top of the 6th inning when NWF scored 5 to take a 5-4 lead. GMC came right back n the bottom of the 6th with 5 of their own and held on to get a 9-5 win. Freshman Hannah Henry got her 1st college win in relief. No Bulldog had more than one hit but sophomore Carly Rigsby's hit was a 3 run home run and freshman Kaedy Borst also had 3 RBI in the game.
Game #2 GMC vs. Pensacola
Game 2 was an 11-3 loss. GMC pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone and walked 9 batters. That is a difficult obstacle to overcome. Again, no Dog had multiple hits.
Game #3 GMC vs Indian River
Game 3, the first game Saturday was one the Bulldogs would like to forget as they were "no hit" by Indian River. Final score 8-0.
Game #4 GMC vs. Seminole State
Game 4 was another game in which the offense was lite and the defense was suspect. Seminole took advantage of 3 GMC errors to take a 9-3 win. Carly Rigsby was 3-4 with an RBI and freshman Lauren King picked up 2 RBI in the game.
Game #5 GMC vs. Lake Sumter
In the 3rd game of the day on Saturday the bats remained cold as GMC mustered only 4 hits. Freshman pitcher Sarah Middleton helped keep the Dogs in the game by allowing only 3 runs, 1 earned. With the score tied 3-3, Lake Sumter scored a run in the bottom of the 7th to get the win 4-3. Sophomore Natalie Johnson went 2-2 to lead the offence.
Game #6 GMC vs. Eastern Florida
As the Old saying goes, "Tomorrow is another Day," the Dogs came out playing on Sunday. GMC pounded out 10 hits with 8 of the 9 starters each collecting a hit. Rigsby (Home Run #2) and freshman Mackensie Poynter had 2 hits on the game. Middleton picked up her 1st collegiate win. GMC 9-Eastern Florida 4
Game #7 GMC vs. Miami Dade
In the final game of the weekend Rigsby and Johnson carried the offensive load. They both went 3-3 and picked up all 5 RBI as the Bulldogs scored 5 runs early and held on to take a 5-4 win. Poynter picked up her 1st collegiate win givingup only 7 hits and Hannah Henry picked up the save. According to Coach Bunn, "We played 7 good opponents, 3 ranked in the top 20. The quality competition will only make us better as we get ready for conference play. Early in the season we are just trying to see how all of the pieces fit. As I told the players, "You learn in January, You win in April."
The team will play next on the road at USC-Salkehatchie on Tuesday, February 6th at 1pm/3pm.
The Bulldogs will open up their home schedule on Thursday, February 22nd against USC-Salkehatchie as the doubleheader will start at 3pm. Make plans to come on out and make plans to support your GMC Bulldogs. Their schedule can be found on the website at www.gmcbulldogs.com