However, things are looking up for the Lady Tigers as they bring in a promising freshman class, signifying a bright future.
“We have a lot of eighth graders coming up who are now freshmen. They’re a really talented group,” head coach Kandace Bruno said. “We were young last year. We’re even younger this year, but we’ve got a lot to build on, which is exciting. Obviously, with young kids, there is always going to be jitters. I think, as we move on into the season, they’ll settle down.
“I’m really excited for what’s to come in the future.”
Two of Adairsville’s freshmen are pitchers, which is exactly what the team needed as the Lady Tigers had a 9.23 team ERA last year. Ninth graders Loren Harris and Alyssa Hughes will help lower that number in 2014. Harris and Hughes will join senior Kayla Bailey in the rotation. Bailey was the team’s top pitcher last year.
“I would like to use two of them,” Bruno said of how she will rotate her three pitchers. “Kayla throws a little more off-speed. I would like to be able to use her and the other ones to keep the hitters off balanced, but if a pitcher is throwing a heck of a game, I’m obviously not going to pull them out. If one is struggling, we’re going to do what we have to do.”
Even though the team is young, several freshmen have plenty of experience in the sport and play year-round.
“A lot of them have played lots of travel ball, so they’re really experienced,” Bruno said of her freshmen. “I think once we get past the first couple games that we’ll settle down and start to mesh.
“I had some that played travel ball last year, but we’ll have more come in this year.”
Bruno has been impressed with her lineup so far in the preseason and believes her team will be able to score runs. Sophomore Bailey Robinson will be counted on to produce after a strong freshman campaign. Robinson led the team in batting a season ago with an .387 average and a .513 on-base percentage.
“She’s looking good. She’s hitting it,” Bruno said of Robinson. “She will see a lot of time in the outfield. There’s a chance she might come into the infield.”
Another strong returning player is junior Hannah Knapp. Knapp played in the outfield a season ago, but may have to fill in at catcher this season. Knapp hit .358 with a .488 on-base percentage in 2013 and tied for the team lead in RBIs with nine. Knapp shared the mark with infielder Morgan Creel, who also returns for her senior season.
“Hannah Knapp is hitting the ball really well. She should be pretty big for us,” Bruno said. “Honestly, we went to team camp and I looked at the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, we have a lot of room to play with.’ We’re going to play with it until we figure out what fits and what’s working.”
In addition to the returning players, freshmen will comprise several spots in the lineup, including Harris, Morgan DeBoard, Kinsey Boswell and Emily Collum.
“We’ve got some pretty consistent bats,” Bruno said. “Morgan DeBoard is going to be big for us. She’s really consistent with the bat. Kinsey Boswell, a transfer from Calhoun, she’s going to do some good things for us this year.”
Emily Collum is the sister of Mallorie Collum, who graduated after a strong career at Adairsville. Mallorie Collum and Macy Upshaw are the two losses to graduation on the team. According to Bruno, their leadership will be hard to replace on such a young team.
“Mallorie was a really good kid and real coachable. She bought in and knew what was expected. We’re going to miss her leadership. Macy, I only had for one year, but same thing. She was a team player. She did whatever we asked her to,” Bruno said. “I tell them, ‘You can have all the talent in the world, but I’ll take a coachable player over talent every day.’ So that will be hard to replace, but I think that our seniors this year are going to step up and fill their shoes.”
Adairsville will have a slightly different region this season as the Lady Tigers move to Region 6-AAA, which lost Cartersville and added Murray County and Calhoun to the group of teams that comprised Region 5-AAA.
“Calhoun, obviously, is always going to be tough. They’re a great program, but I think that we’ve got the ability to compete with them if we play our game,” Bruno said. “From what I hear, the history between Adairsville and Calhoun isn’t that great, but we have the potential to compete if we stay focused on what we’re doing rather than what everyone else is doing.”
Even with a young team and coming off a losing season, Adairsville is optimistic about their prospects this season.
“We actually sat down and went over our goals and we want to win region and give everything that we’ve got every game,” Bruno said. “We want to leave it all out on the field and get better. I don’t care if you get out as long as you get better every at bat.”