In the 10 years of the University of South Carolina Sumter softball program, the 2017 campaign was the worst. The Fire Ants went just 2-26 on the season.
"By far, it was our worst season," said USC Sumter head coach Adrienne Cataldo, who is about …
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"By far, it was our worst season," said USC Sumter head coach Adrienne Cataldo, who is about to begin her 11th season in charge of the program. "We had five academic ineligibilities from the fall and it really hurt us with our depth."
Cataldo doesn't see anything close to a repeat performance coming for the '18 squad, which opens its season on Thursday with a doubleheader against Florence-Darlington Technical College at Patriot Park SportsPlex beginning at 5 p.m.
"We've got four sophomores back - Ellen Dennis, Kristen McKenzie, Taylor Rease and Gracie Swingle - and they can sense a difference in this team compared to last season," said Cataldo, who brought in 12 freshmen. "None of those girls (freshmen) went through last season and they've brought in a different attitude."
A few of those newcomers are local players who Cataldo expects to play key roles. It starts on the mound where former Sumter High School pitcher Hannah Bettencourt will share time in the circle with fellow freshman Megan Phillips from Gaffney.
Brooke Ward and Ashton Rogers, who played key roles on Laurence Manning Academy's back-to-back SCISA 3A state championship teams, will be on the infield. Rogers will start at third base, while Ward will be either at second base or shortstop. She will play opposite fellow freshman Jayla Cowell from Lakeland, Florida, up the middle.
Freshman Emily Holmes of Hilliard, Florida, will start at first, while McKenzie will be the designated player. Hailey Carter will handle the catching chores.
Swingle will share time in the outfield with freshman Laurel Shaw of West Columbia, Tamia Miller of Eastover and Alexis Lyles of Jacksonville, Florida.
That's who Cataldo expects to be starting on Thursday. She said nothing is set in stone yet.
"We've got a lot of talented players on this roster," Cataldo said. "We've got depth and people who can play a lot of different positions."
The other freshmen on the roster are first baseman Kamryn McWhite of Jacksonville and pitcher Rachel Tavares of McIntyre, Georgia.
USC Sumter will again be playing in the National Junior College Athletic Association's Region X. The other teams in the region are Spartanburg Methodist College, Louisburg College, USC Salkehatchie and USC Union.
Sumter will play host to the Region X Conference Tournament April 27-29 at Patriot Park.
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