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SWHS softball returns all players

Second-year coach Pat Thompson has a luxury many coaches never get to experience. The Sweet Water head softball coach returns every player from a team that qualified for the playoffs in 2008.

“Everybody’s back,” Thompson said. “We like our chances.”

The team’s returning group includes four seniors. Cassie Sager will slide back into her second base position. She will share the middle infield with incumbent shortstop Melanie Curtis.

“She can absolutely unleash it,” Thompson said of Curtis, whose throwing arm, he says, would rival that of anyone on the Sweet Water baseball team.

Latoya Williams will bring her glove back to her right field spot. Chelsea Luker is the squad’s most experienced pitcher.

“I expect a lot out of my seniors this year,” Thompson said. “I’m expecting them to be the leaders and keep us going.”

The remainder of the starting lineup consists of sophomores Latrina Gamble and Tondalaya Dockery in the outfield. Freshman Deandria Norwood returns to third base after having started at the position in the second half of the 2008 season. Juniors Breanna Black and Jacqueseya White will be responsible for first base and the catcher’s spot, respectively.

While Thompson has complete confidence in his defensive set, he is very optimistic about the depth of his pitching staff.

“We’ve got more pitching depth this year than we’ve had,” Thompson said. “We’ve got four girls I feel like can pitch in a varsity game.”

Additionally, Thompson is encouraged about his team’s returning offensive prowess.

“We have decent 1A speed at the top (of the lineup) with (Dockery) and Latoya Williams,” Thompson said.

In addition to speed, Sweet Water brings back a pair of high-average hitters in Williams and Luker. The Bulldog right fielder hit .397 last season with a pair of home runs. Conversely, Luker batted .320 and proved the squad’s top run producer.

“Late in the year is when she really came on,” Thompson said of Luker.

The only real questions facing Thompson’s squad revolve around the level of competition it will face in Area 5 competition, which includes Autaugaville and Billingsley.

“We’re moving into a new area, so I don’t know a whole lot about (Autaugaville and Billingsley),” Thompson said.

According to Thompson, the girls did not move past practice drills until Thursday afternoon, but he said he expects his team to be ready for its season-opener against Millry next Thursday.

“I think having everybody back helps and our overall depth this year is better than we had last year,” Thompson said. “They know what to expect and they know what I expect of them.”

The team’s opener is scheduled to take place at Sweet Water, but may be relocated if the new lights at the high school softball field are not yet functional.