Lady Barons return experience to softball diamond

By Terry Gaston

MOUNT VERNON -- In beginning his first season as the Brewton-Parker College fast-pitch softball coach, Jason Bryant has an experienced squad eager to compete well against some of the nation's best NAIA teams that are included in the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference.

The Lady Barons begin their season Thursday with the first of three non-conference home doubleheaders when they play Voorhees College (S.C.) starting at 2 p.m. They then play Edward Waters College (Fla.) on Friday at 2 p.m. and Albany State University on Feb. 13.

Their GACC schedule begins March 1 with a home doubleheader against Emmanuel College.

"I think we can be competitive every game," Bryant said. "We should be able to compete against anyone we play. The conference is ridiculously strong, but I feel we can compete. The girls worked extremely hard during the off-season."

"The seniors are expected to go out and get the job done," Bryant said. "I have been extremely pleased with their effort."

The Lady Barons' senior experience begins with a pair of returning all-conference selections, second baseman Ali Furgala and catcher-outfielder Alissa Vogt. Both players are among five Lady Barons who hail from Kelowna, British Columbia.

Furgala returns after leading the Lady Barons in batting average (.328), base hits (43), triples (5), runs scored (24), walks (17) and total bases (57). Vogt had a team-high 17 stolen bases in 2002 while batting .277.

Vogt will share catching duties with junior Jaime Murrant, another Kelowna product, thus forming a tandem behind the plate that should be strong, Bryant said. Murrant, who will otherwise play at third base, hit .310 with a team-high 11 doubles as a sophomore.

Junior pitcher Kelly Hamilton of Fergus, Ontario, returns after leading Brewton-Parker in wins last season with six, and senior Lyndsay Gomme of Kelowna had four wins in 2002. Others vying for the third starting spot are senior Aislyn MacLeod, sophomore Ashley Marr and freshmen Rachel Harper and Emily Woodard.

MacLeod missed last spring after undergoing shoulder surgery but returns this season and looks to share first-base duties with senior Kendra Sewell, who will be primarily in center field this season. Sewell, who is from Canton, shared the team lead in triples at five with Furgala and hit .289 as a junior.

Bryant also said he is encouraged by Harper's defensive play, which places her at shortstop.

Senior Nicole Behning of Orange Park, Fla., moves into a starting role at right field, and freshman April Meeks of Pembroke will play in left field and brings a strong hitting game to the Lady Barons' offense. Rebecca Thompson, a freshman from Warner Robins, also could see time in the outfield.

Sophomore Amanda San U of Watkinsville will be the Lady Barons' top utility player, with freshman Kelly Phillips available for infield duty and freshman Stacey Norton a threat on the bases while possibly seeing time at catcher.

"Where I think this team will be much improved is in depth, with players come in off the bench and can contribute," Bryant said.