Few can predict what’s going to happen as far as wins and losses with a young team, but Enterprise State Community College softball coach Traci Harrison said the attitude and chemistry around her program certainly feels different — in a good way.
“From last year to this year, I just think it’s been a whole different atmosphere for our program,” Harrison said at last week’s area JUCO Media Day kickoff at Shane’s Rib Shack, an event hosted by Encore Sports Medicine.
“Our fall was just amazing. Our team chemistry this year is unbelievable. Everybody wants to be here. Everybody wants to succeed in the classroom as well.”
An injury-filled season last year disrupted her second season as the Weevils’ head coach.
“At the end of the year, we sat down as a staff and decided on some changes that we needed to make,” Harrison said. “We ended up bring in 14 freshmen, along with a small class of six sophomores.”
With so many new faces, the team took huge strides last fall.
“The fall was a huge kickoff for them,” the coach said. “Half of our sophomore class has already signed to the go to the next level and we’ll have three more signing.”
It may have gone too well.
“The four-year schools are also taking away some of our freshman class,” Harrison added. “They’ll be transferring out in August 2020 to four-year schools. We preach at practice and as a staff, if you’re a freshman and a four-year school comes to you with a good offer, you have to take that offer. I can’t predict if there’s going to be more offers for that freshman. I can’t promise her that there’ll be other schools, as well.”
So far this spring, momentum seems to have carried over from the fall.
“I think it propped them up and let them know there is something special here and we can do great things in the spring,” Harrison said. “They talk about how to get better every day at practice, what they need to do to get to the next process in this journey.
“They talk about going to the state tournament. They talk about getting to Utah (for Nationals). They talk about, are we driving to Utah? Things that connect us and make us laugh. Like I said, this team is super, super close this year. Once they step on that field, you don’t have to stay anything to them. They definitely get the job done.”
One of the newcomers is left-handed pitcher and first baseman Courtney Gaddis from Sulphur Springs, Texas.
“I am very anxious to get back on the field and practice and more anxious for our season to start,” Gaddis said at the Media Day.
Her transition from high school to junior college has been “a very different experience than I’m used to,” she said, adding that it’s been very positive.
“Everyone wanting to be there,” she answered when asked the biggest difference from high school. “Everyone’s wanting to win, everyone’s wanting to put in their part — which, in high school, not everyone was wanting to. In college, everyone’s wanting to play, everyone’s trying to get to the next level and everyone’s doing what they love.”
Harrison said Gaddis’ transition may be different than most because she has been home schooled since the eighth grade.
“This was a huge process,” the coach noted. “Moving 14 hours into a college classroom and being around different types of teammates, as well. It’s been a huge adjustment, but I told her she had to stay for two years, so she’s not going anywhere.”
The Weevils are frantically trying to complete some facility improvements before the season starts.
“All these improvements are being done by us,” Harrison said. “With all this rain, it’s been a process. We’re at the field seven days a week until 11 o’clock at night with our car lights on the field. We’re doing everything we can to get it ready.
“We might not make the first couple home games, but I know the administration is doing everything they can right now. Hopefully, when conference starts, we’ll be ready to play.”
ESCC is participating in the Adidas JUCO Classic in Clearwater, Florida, a day of exhibition games on Feb. 1. The season opener is Thursday, Feb. 20, with a home doubleheader against Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.