Coach Lissa Walker is beginning her second season as Port St. Joe’s softball coach with cautious optimism.
After losing only Erica Ramsey from last year’s 15-10 Tiger Shark team, Walker said “I’m excited (about) this year’s depth. We have a lot to work with, (and) a lot of people we can put in different positions.”
In preseason action, the Lady Sharks played North Bay Haven twice this past week, taking a 4-1 win at the Buccaneer home field on Monday, February 13, behind freshman Brooklyn Bishop’s strong outing on the mound before losing a 9-8 slugfest to the Bucs at home on Thursday, February 16.
One of the keys to St. Joe’s win at North Bay Haven is that Bishop limited freshman slugger Kaylee Goodpaster to one single, late in the game. Last season, Goodpaster batted .567 with 12 homers and 48 runs batted in.
On Thursday night, with an ailing senior shortstop Kali Austerman out of the lineup, Walker allowed freshman Addy Silcox to face the Bucs, who scored three runs in the first inning thanks to a Goodpaster run-scoring hit and three St. Joe miscues in the field.
The Lady Sharks got two of those runs back in their half of the first. After a one-out walk to Silcox, Bishop blasted a towering shot high and deep over the left field fence. Had the ball been any higher, it would have needed to file a flight plan with the FAA.
Bay Haven regained its three run advantage in the second inning with two more runs, and there would be no more scoring until Goodpaster launched a bases-empty four-bagger of her own in the fourth.
St. Joe rallied for three runs in their half of the fourth behind singles by Haley Green, Maelynn Butler, Addy Creekmore, and Lauren Brant.
With the bases fully occupied, Bishop stepped to the plate and scorched a line shot that the Buccaneer left fielder secured in the webbing of her glove just before it touched grass, preserving the Bay Haven 6-5 lead.
With Shark freshman Christina Clayton taking over in the circle to start the fifth inning, the Bucs increased their lead to 8-5 courtesy of a single, an error, and a double. Adding another run in the sixth, the North Bay Haven dugout and fans felt safe with a 9-5 advantage.
Not quitting, Butler led off the St. Joe sixth with her third hit of the game and promptly stole second before coming home on Lauren Brant’s single up the middle to make the score 9-6.
Butler’s fourth hit of the game came with two outs in the final inning, a triple that sent Bishop and Elli Newman home, but the speedy Butler would be left stranded with the tying run just 60 feet from home plate. Final score: North Bay Haven 9, Port St. Joe 8.
“We did a good job coming back,” said Walker after the game. “When Kali gets back, it will make a huge difference defensively, and with her, Brooklyn, and Maelynn we have some pop in our bats.”
“It’s just who is hot at the right time. We have a lot to work with, and (my job) is making the puzzle work and hoping that the puzzle we have out there is hot at the same time,” she added.
The puzzle pieces that Walker and her assistant coaches have to work with this season are, by grade:
Kali Austerman and Maelynn Butler (12th); Chelsea Bishop, Samantha Childers, Addy Creekmore, Maya Itzkovitz, and Emma Leffew (11th); Bre Fleming (10th); Brooklyn Bishop, Lauren Brant, Christina Clayton, Haley Green, Elli Newman, and Addy Silcox (9th); Anniston Gainer (8th).
Assisting Walker in coaching the varsity this season will be Tracy Browning and Corey Silcox.
The Lady Sharks open the season in earnest on Tuesday, February 28, at Sneads, who had a 10-17 record last year.