Leadership a key to Golden Eagles' return to prominence in '12
Feb 09, 2012
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Depth looks to be the key ingredient for
coach Tory Acheson's Tennessee Tech softball team in the 2012
campaign as the Golden Eagles bid for their fifth Ohio Valley
Conference regular-season championship in the last 11 years. The
squad returns 13 players from a year ago, providing much-needed
experience and leadership for this season.
"All in all, we are much deeper," Acheson said. "I think we've
had much more competition at each position, and that has really
pushed our level of work and effort to a higher level than it has
been in the past couple of years."
Here is a position-by-position outlook on the 2012 Golden
"I feel that we have quality depth in our pitching rotation this
year," Acheson said. "I think all five of our pitchers can be
successful and will see time."
Thomas will bear the title of ace for the Golden Eagles in her
fourth season in the circle. Her 16 victories and 131 strikeouts a
year ago have earned her a spot on the College Sports Madness
Preseason All-OVC team.
Thomas will share the rotation with fellow East Tennessean Erica Tuck.
"Holly and Erica have done a very good job and those two will
definitely be getting some innings," Acheson said.
"Claudia Harke has had some back issues, so we're not sure when
she'll be ready to get back into things. Cummings will be filling
the closer/stopper role. Freshman Taylor Ketchum is
also expected to compete for playing time."
The off-season has also seen competition for the starting role
behind the plate. Sophomore Kendall Hooper
returns the most experience after appearing in 20 games in her
freshman campaign, but fellow sophomore Emma Woo and freshman
Weems have also made an impact this spring.
"Right now Kendall is the starter," Acheson said. "Emma and
Mekenzie have done very well. I don't think it's clear-cut absolute
that any one of them is the full-time starter yet."
Acheson is looking for the right candidate to provide leadership
on the field. "Kendall's leadership and communication is a key
factor for our team defense," he said. "Emma and Mekenzie played
well this fall, but they have to step up their leadership to
Spalding will be the starter at first base for the Golden
Eagles, as she started 47 games there a year ago. "Chanelle has had
a very productive spring semester so far," Acheson said. "She's
been swinging the bat well and she's providing a lot of leadership
and communication in the infield."
Senior Whitney Cummings may also see time at first, but will be
utilized mainly as a designated player and short-outing
A transfer sophomore from Yavapai College, Cassie Garrett
has made an instant impact in the infield and has earned the
starting job at second base. "Cassie just joined us in January and
she has really gotten off to a very good start," Acheson said.
"She's still a work in progress as far as learning all the things
we do and all the parts of the defense that run through that
Templet will continue to serve as a pinch runner, but may also
see time at second. "Tyler has done a great job and provided solid
leadership," Acheson said.
Back from an injury, senior Samantha
Everett will start at shortstop for the Golden Eagles. "She's
had a productive spring and she gives us consistency at that
position that we really need," Acheson said. "She's been swinging
the bat pretty well in practice, so we look for her to contribute
at the plate as well."
Freshman Hannah Eldridge
will serve as the backup at shortstop as she continues to develop
her game. "Hannah has a tremendous future for us," Acheson said.
"The only thing she's lacking right now is the experience."
With her twin sister across the diamond, Brittney
Spalding will start at third base, but has received some
competition from junior transfer Emily Burch. "I'm
completely comfortable with either Brittney or Emily playing,"
Acheson said. "Brittney gives us a little more leadership and a
little more explosiveness."
A very good hitter, Burch could be utilized as a pinch-hitter
when she isn't filling a role in the field. Acheson said Burch
could play at either third base or shortstop if needed.
From the dirt to the fence, the Golden Eagles will have the
outfield covered very well this season.
Freshman Angi Sakamoto will
get the starting nod in left field as Acheson has been very
impressed by what she's able to do with her glove. "Angi has
tremendous upside," he said. "She has a chance to be a very special
One of the most versatile weapons in the Golden Eagle arsenal is
Christian, who will be anchoring the outfield this season.
Having her speed and bat in the lineup will be key as Christian
will be the starter in center field. "I think this is the perfect
position for her defensively," Acheson said. "It puts her in a
position where we can take advantage of her tremendous athletic
ability. She's got great range and runs down balls that most people
wouldn't dream of getting to." Her leadership is one of the many
assets Melody brings to the table. "She's really taking charge and
becoming the field general for the outfield and it's very exciting
to see," Acheson said. "You can count on seeing her in centerfield
from now on. There's no discussion about that."
Senior Brooke Basten has
earned the starting position in right field. "She's been swinging
he bat exceptionally well and she's another one who has been
providing us with a lot of intangibles," Acheson said. "Her
leadership, experience and desire are all tremendous assets for
Adding depth in the outfield, sophomore Kayla Floyd is also
in the picture. "She's basically our 4th outfielder
right now," Acheson said. "Offensively, her speed and short game
really create havoc for the opposition and I would be completely
comfortable with her stepping into the starting lineup if something
happens." Floyd will be competing for playing time at any of the
outfield positions. Red-shirt freshman Christian Gibbs will also
serve as a backup in the outfield and may see time at either left
or center field, and may be utilized as a pinch runner in certain
With seven homeruns and 23 RBIs last season, senior Whitney
Cummings looks to play the role of designated player for the Golden
Eagles. "We're excited to see her hitting the ball the way we think
she's capable of," Acheson said. "She's got enough experience now
that we hope she'll be the clutch performer we need her to be."
Emily Burch and Kayla Floyd may also be utilized as designated
players depending on the situation.