TCC softball team is built on experience
TCC sports information
The start of a new calendar year also signals the start of a new softball season. After practicing throughout the fall, the players have little time to get settled in their new classes before their first regular season games.
Two weekends ago, the Eagles travelled to Clearwater for the 2023 JUCO Kickoff Classic. They won three of their four games.
“They’ve come in focused, ready to go, right where we left off in the fall,” said head coach Patti Townsend.
TCC’s schedule included NCAA Division I opponents such as FAMU, Troy, and Mercer.
Townsend is entering her 20th season as head coach. Having reached the NJCAA Division I National Softball Tournament twice, she knows what it takes to lead a championship-caliber team. Entering 2023, Townsend is confident in her squad. That confidence comes from not only her coaching experience, but her team’s collegiate playing experience. Eleven of her 15 players are sophomores, and five are now in their third season at TCC. The players on the 2023 roster made up 86 percent of the plate appearances and 89 percent of innings pitched in 2022.
Raven Little (3B, Soph.) is one of the returning players and has been a major contributor for TCC over the past two seasons.
“She’s just a rock at third base,” said Townsend. “She’s so steady, she’s always consistent.”
Over 83 games and 280 plate appearances, Little has a career slash line of .339/.392/.665. She’s also hit 10 home runs in each of her first two seasons, leading the team both years. Last season, she was named First Team All-Panhandle Conference.
Kailynn James is back for her second season at TCC, coming off a freshman year that saw her slash .302/.339/.621 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. She also appeared in 19 games as a pitcher, starting 11 of them. She threw 73 innings and had a 4.79 ERA. James was also named Second Team All-Panhandle Conference.
“She’s such an intelligent kid and player,” said Townsend. “Last year, she just over-thought everything. This year she’s really learned how to calm that noise down in her head. She’s focused and she makes adjustments a lot quicker.”
James had a stellar opening weekend in Clearwater. She went 8-11 at the plate with one double and three home runs. She pitched in two games as well, going 10 innings and allowing just one earned run.
“Mentally she knows what the season is like,” said Townsend, “and more importantly, what the conference is like and what she’s going to have to do to elevate her game another step.”
Another returning player is sophomore right hander Brittany Michael. Last season she won NJCAA Pitcher of the Week and was named Second Team All-Panhandle Conference. While pitching, she’ll almost always be throwing it to her twin sister Brooke, a Sophomore catcher who is also back for another year with the Eagles.
There are four freshmen on the team, and Townsend has faith in what they will bring to the roster. Kayli Reed, an infielder, is one of those freshmen, and TCC fans can expect to see a lot of her at second base this season. Reed went 3-9 in her first collegiate games.
“She is just this calm, very intelligent player,” said Townsend. “Loves the game, never complains. She’s really consistent defensively, and she’s making adjustments offensively for the better pitching and defense she’ll see at the college level.”
The Eagles have a tough non-conference schedule, including a date with No. 1 Florida Southwestern State later this month at the Courtney Miller Invitational. Then they’ll enter the Panhandle Conference portion of their schedule, where they’ll play No. 14 Chipola and No. 11 Pensacola State five times each. Whatever challenges this season brings, this team has been through it before.