Jan 162013


By Ronnie Woodward

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beth Keylon-Randolph is starting to figure out what players should fill certain roles for her East Carolina softball team, but not much is set in stone and that’s what Keylon-Randolph prefers for now.

The Pirates are only a few days into their preseason practice slate and they are less than a month away from their first game under the direction of Keylon-Randolph, who was hired last October after a very successful stint at the junior college level. She was named head coach about a month after East Carolina dismissed Tracey Kee, who is the program’s all-time leader in wins.

Keylon-Randolph said after Tuesday’s practice that the coaching staff has had some catching up to do the last few months, but things are starting to fall into place.

“We want to have a real good idea of who’s going to go out there to start games,” Keylon-Randolph said of the focus of the rest of the preseason. “But at the same time, I’m not a coach who says, ‘OK, this is your spot and that’s what we’re going with.’ We really evaluate weekly and we challenge the players weekly. … They are understanding and developing that personality that if they don’t do well, somebody can take that spot.”

Keylon-Randolph added that some of the immediate uncertainty is because of the versatility of the ECU players.

East Carolina, which begins its season Feb. 8, has five players that have multiple positions listed on the roster, including returning standouts in senior infielder/outfielder Cicely Lopez and junior infielder/outfielder Jordan Lewis.

Lopez is one of two seniors on the squad. The other is catcher Kai Clark, a Hawaii native who started 138 games during her first three seasons.

Clark said there are similarities and differences between the former and current coaching staffs. She said the passion and will to win exists with both staffs and although some of the practice routines and workouts are a little different now, the players have the same goal in mind.

“We’re all here to play ball,” said Clark, who was third on ECU in batting average and slugging percentage last year. “Obviously the routine and things like that are going to be different, but I think we’re all out here for the same reason and that’s to play ball and win some games.”

Keylon-Randolph, who guided Chattanooga State to the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association championship, said she wants the Pirates to hit for more power and be more consistent on offense than they were last year.

Last season’s home run leader, Suzanne Riggs, was a senior, but a handful of the Pirates’ top hitters return and Keylon-Randolph said most of the players have been “tough outs” this week.

All four of the squad’s pitchers are underclassmen, led by sophomore and D.H. Conley High School product Sarah Christian.

The other returner is Courtney Smith from Yuba City, Calif.

Christian and the rest of the staff should have plenty of opportunities to pitch in Greenville early in the season, as the Pirates’ first 15 games are at the ECU Softball Stadium. The homestand begins with the Pirate Classic, which features five East Carolina games in three days.

The team then spends almost a full month playing away from home.

“It’s a process for us,” Keylon-Randolph said. “It’s not just about getting ready for February and that’s something we’re going to continue through the whole semester.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

via The Daily Reflector.


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