In a win-or-go-home game, every team wants to see its best performance to give itself a chance at extending the season. That was not the case for Wetumpka on the diamond last season; both baseball and softball teams made a flurry of errors in the postseason, dooming the Indians to defeat.
However, Wetumpka has pushed those memories aside as both teams look for redemption with a lot of new faces and high expectations for the new season.
“Our expectations going in are just like everyone else,” Wetumpka softball coach Daryl Otwell. “We all want to make it to Lagoon Park. We try to get better every day and be a great team at the end of the season. That’s our goal and these girls believe it’s a very achievable goal.”
Otwell is entering his first season and is taking over a team that was one win away from the state tournament last season before suffering a 15-1 defeat to Helena in the qualifier game. Wetumpka has plenty of experience from that regional run but still has a lot of young players battling for playing time.
Otwell expects a breakout season from Mya Holt, who threw some innings at regionals as a seventh-grader.
“She works extremely hard,” Otwell said. “It’s not always fair to compare two players but I had the privilege of coaching KK (Dismukes) and I see a lot of those same qualities in Mya. She is always grinding and she does a lot of the little stuff right. I can see her becoming one of the top recruited players in this area.”
Macon-East transfer and Faulkner signee Jules Thames will share a bulk of the innings while Camille Bowers and Ashley Burgess are expected to contribute as well.
Ashlynn Campbell will make a move to shortstop after starting at second last year. Campbell hit .357 a season ago and Otwell expects her to make just as big of an impact in the field as she does at the plate.
“I think she can be one of the best shortstops in this area,” Otwell said. “I watched her play last year but didn’t know too much about her. It only took me about five minutes at tryouts to realize she was meant to play shortstop. She’s quick on her feet and fundamentally sound.”
Maddie Elmore, Lily Gray and Jasmine Russell return to fill starting spots in the infield. Markie Hicks will continue as the starting center fielder while Kaylyn Richardson will compete with Holt, Bowers and Thames for playing time in the corner outfield spots.
Wetumpka’s baseball team has to replace five starters from last year’s roster that won the Class 6A Area 5 championship. But after seeing its hopes of a postseason run dashed in the first round, Wetumpka is looking to just take things one step further.
“The goal is to always win the area and move on in the playoffs,” Wetumpka baseball coach Michael Dismukes said. “We have to get better to make it to the second round and our players know that. We expect to move forward and to be in the hunt this year.”
Fortunately for Wetumpka, reigning Elmore County Player of the Year Seth Johnson returns and is looking to cap off his high school career with another strong season. He finished last year with a .460 batting average and led the team with 26 doubles and eight home runs.
“It’s huge to have a guy in the middle of the order lead us at the plate,” Dismukes said. “He has played a huge role in our success. He’s a leader on the field and in the locker room.”
Wetumpka has replace the other four hitters that surrounded Johnson at the top of the order last season but Dismukes is confident he has the pieces to get it done. Shortstop Ty Brooks returns from injury and is expected to give a big boost to the offense along with second baseman Noah Jones, who could be due for a breakout season.
“I expect he is going to have a great year,” Dismukes said. “He feels really comfortable in the middle now. The growth in mindset is going to really help him become a more consistent player and he has shown that over the last three weeks.”
The offseason did bring some bad news to Wetumpka: Johnson will not be able to pitch this season as he recovers from a shoulder injury. However, Wetumpka has several players with innings under their belts ready to make a run at the top spot.
Doug Johnson has led the charge but he is not far ahead of Kyle Morrison, Dawson Fuller, Jaxon Shineflew and several others.
“We have a few guys in the mix there,” Dismukes said. “There’s always a concern when you lose two arms like Seth and Mason (Elmore) but I’m only concerned with the consistency being that young. If we can be consistent, we’re going to be pretty good there.”