For the first time in 12 years there will be a new face in the dugout for the University of South Carolina Sumter's softball program when the Fire Ants open play against Florence-Darlington Technical College on Friday afternoon.
Adrienne Cataldo …
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Adrienne Cataldo chose to step down from her position as head coach to focus solely on her athletics director duties. USC Sumter is in the midst of adding several new sports, including men's golf, women's soccer and, potentially, volleyball.
Cataldo has tabbed Kendall Winge as her successor. Winge, originally from Savannah, Georgia, played softball for the Fire Ants in 2013 and '14 before taking on a role as an assistant coach for the past three seasons.
In her role as an assistant, Winge focused on recruiting players from throughout the United States. She helped guide those students through the process of becoming a student-athlete and then pushed students to get their education while also playing softball.
"I'm very thankful to be given this position and to be able to not only do the same things I was doing as an assistant coach, but also be able to make sure the team represents USC Sumter well," said Winge. "Age Cataldo has had a huge impact on me. She made sure that I understood everything I needed to know in order to succeed in this position."
The Fire Ants are currently scheduled to open their season against Florence-Darlington Technical College at Patriot Park SportPlex on Friday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Inclement weather could force the game to be cancelled, which would push their opener to Sunday when they travel to Columbia to face Columbia College.
USC Sumter finished 16-16 last season while missing its top hitter, Brooke Vance, for the entire second half of the season. Vance suffered a wrist injury after hitting .344 last season, and has recently been cleared to play this spring.
"I believe everybody on this team has the opportunity for a good amount of playing time," said Winge. "It's a small group, but I believe with all of their knowledge and experience and the hard work that they put out on this field, that we'll have a really good season. I'm excited to see what they bring."
Freshman starting pitcher Morgan Boudreau will act as the team ace. She's joined by freshmen Maggie Hunter and Taylor Guin on the pitching staff. Boudreau finished 7-0 with a 1.00 earned run average and 44 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched at Sunlake High School in Land O'Lakes, Florida, last season.
"Morgan comes in with a great attitude," said Winge. "She gives all she has every time she's out there on the mound. Of course, every pitcher does struggle, but she makes sure she holds it in and understands what she needs to work on."
The trio of freshmen pitchers will form an all-freshman battery with starting catcher Brittany Cothran. Cothran was a catcher at Hartsville High School, where she helped guide her team to the 4A state championship last season.
"Brittany is doing very well; she's one of our leaders," said Winge. "She gives it all when she's out there and makes sure she doesn't leave practice without getting dirty. She likes to learn and she's very coachable."
The team also features a pair of recent Sumter High School graduates in Alexis Jacobs and Erin McCaffrey, who both enter the program as sophomores academically but freshmen athletically.
"Alexis is one of the funniest players I've ever coached," said Winge. "She comes to practice with a huge smile on her face, even on days when we have to practice in the rain."
"Erin transferred from USC Aiken," said Winge. "She really wanted to play softball, and she gives it all she has when she's out there."
Winge expects the team to be solid defensively as it looks to unseat defending Region X champion USC Salkehatchie.
"We have a team that communicates; I call them the go-getters," said Winge. "They make sure we get outs. We have players on the team that just go for it. They don't sit back and wait for someone else to take charge. We have a lot of leaders on the team, which I'm very pleased with. It not only helps me, but also helps out everyone else."
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