Over the last three years, Alcovy softball has accumulated 63 wins – which include back-to-back-to-back trips to the playoffs – and become a staple in region 2-AAAAAA establishing a model of consistency for the program.
In her first season at the helm, Lady Tigers’ head coach Brandy Keeter went 21-5and now has a full off season at her disposal to help her players develop.
“We had a good season. We just didn’t finish,” Keeter said after the team’s 1-0 and 6-0 losses to Hillgrove. “We’re just gonna build on this year and work with what we have coming up and play with what we have coming up from middle school to continue next year.”
Next year will be a huge turnover for the program. The Lady Tigers are losing five starters and depth on their bench with a number of current seniors graduating.
Returning starters include: sophomore third baseman Alexia Nolley, junior shortstop Raven Smith, junior pitcher Kalia Johnson and freshman catcher Emma Waddell.
If they’re going to remain the cream of the crop in the region, they’ll have to develop some players from their junior varsity and hope to get a couple of gems coming out of middle school – similar to what the Lady Tigers got this year with Waddell.
Fortunately for Alcovy, two of the four returning starters, Smith and Johnson – which sounds like a powerful law firm – also happen to be arguably the team’s best hitters. Not to mention, Johnson is a great pitcher and she should only improve after another year. Smith is stout at short and a heck of a hitter. Smith was one of the few players to get a hit against FSU commit Abby Evans for Hillgrove. Johnson didn't get a hit but she made contact every time and launched a few balls deep that just weren’t long enough for homeruns.
Nolley, was pretty solid at third base this season and she’s just a sophomore. The experience she got this year will help her defensively. There are times where she needs to be more aware of the situations such as when the opposing team is bunting and she needs to play up more. Nolley isn’t a great hitter, but she can put the bat on the ball and growing in that area from making contact to getting on base more will help the Lady Tigers tremendously.
Behind the plate, Waddell is an emerging star. She gunned down a few of Hillgrove’s players attempting to steal second in Alcovy’s final two playoff games. Waddell has an unassumingly strong arm. If you look at her you wouldn’t think she had a gun for an arm, but she does. Where Waddell can improve, however, is offensively. A bottom of the lineup batter this season, Waddell has been known to foul off pitches at a pretty high rate, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it means she’s behind on pitches. Working on a stronger/quicker swing in the offseason should do wonders for her batting.
It remains to be seen how other players will develop and what freshmen, if any, can make an impact on this team, but the Lady Tigers have a solid core to build on for the future.