Indians rally late to knock off No. 8 Mustangs

Brian Tannehill

Stanhope Elmore pitcher Neci King (22) throws a pitch against Wetumpka on Thursday.

Last Monday marked the first official day for baseball and softball teams to participate in throwing drills with the full roster. There are still some limitations on practice time and what can be done before the first day of practice Jan. 27 but the new period has brought plenty of excitement to teams around the county.

“I think the biggest thing for us is finally getting together as a team,” Wetumpka baseball coach Michael Dismukes said. “We’re throwing and working on condition for five days in a row as a whole team. We want them to understand the grind of the day to day.”

Wetumpka is using the early period to start the process of filling out its pitching staff as it has to replace a majority of innings pitched from last season. Mason Elmore, Dylan Shipley and Kyle Johnston have all graduated and ace Seth Johnson is not expected to pitch this season so Wetumpka hopes to get a better picture of the rotation as soon as possible.

“You can start to get an idea of what it’s going to look like,” Dismukes said. “You want to see the whole staff and see who is progressing. You can start to narrow down who we can count on for those big innings once the season begins.”

Teams are also using this three-week period to build team chemistry while focusing on the mental side of the game. Holtville softball coach Kaelin Dawson is getting ready for her first season in charge of the Bulldogs and she is still working on getting her system implemented with the players.

Dawson said she is very particular in how she wants things done and she believes the team is starting to understand that. With many girls playing volleyball, this is the first time Dawson has gotten to work with a majority of her team at the same time.

“The biggest change is having everyone synchronized,” Dawson said. “It teaches them organization and builds that team chemistry. It has been different for some of them but they have gotten better through the week.”

Stanhope Elmore softball coach Virginia Barber has her team focused on creating a closer bond this year. She said her players were working through a scavenger hunt with a team last week and they have more team-bonding exercises throughout the preseason.

While the Mustangs continue to build their team chemistry, it is not the only way they are focusing on the mental side of the game. Barber said they are working through throwing drills but there is also a strong focus on talking about possible in-game situations.

“The biggest goal is to make sure everything flows together once we get to start the season,” Barber said. “We’re talking about different situations and scenarios. We want everyone to be comfortable on the field so you always know what to do and you don’t have to think about what’s next.”

The regular season officially begins in less than a month. With the season closing in, coaches have seen a shift in mindset and energy level since beginning the throwing period.

“The energy is amazing right now,” Barber said. “I told them that if we play like we have this week, we can do something special this year.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.