Defense is strong suit for Red Devils

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

ACCC photo
Members of the 2009 Allen County Community College softball team are (left to right), back row, head coach Ed Wilkerson, Amy McAfee, Kassie Summers, Jordan Talley, Shawna Blakesley, Brianne Campbell, Kristina Popejoy, Chalice Schmollinger, Kate Gibson, assistant coach Jamie Amerine; front row, Whitney Sullivan, Amy Carr, Kasay Egdston (no longer on team), Dana Stephenson, Terra Woods, Kylie Robbins, Jenna Wendt.

Potential.
Head coach Ed Wilkerson sees the potential of the 2009 Allen County Community College Red Devil softball team. The Red Devils have shown they can be good in all three phases — fielding, hitting and pitching.
“We didn’t do that in our season-opening trip south last week but through the course of fall ball and practices, we’ve shown the potential,” Wilkerson said.
“We played some tough competition in Texas against teams with a lot of returning players. We’re pretty young and different teams develop at different rates.”
Allen County went 1-5 in Texas, Feb. 11-14. The Red Devils lost to North Central Texas 10-2 and 13-0. They went to the Cowtown Classic in Fort Worth, Texas, losing 10-3 to Bossier Parrish of Louisiana. They beat Angelina College of Texas 5-4 then dropped a 20-1 decision to Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa and lost 6-2 to Cloud County.
Today, the Red Devils travel to Parsons to play two games at Labette Community College. The Red Devils’ home opener is Saturday against Iowa Central with the first game starting at 1 p.m. They also have North Central Missouri coming to Iola Sunday at 1 p.m.
Allen County has four sophomores back from last year’s 26-30 team. The Red Devils were 10-8 in Jayhawk Eastern Division play.
Back on the ball diamond for Allen County are third-baseman Dana Stephenson, pitcher Whitney Sullivan, Kate Gibson and Jordan Talley, who both play outfield. Gibson is also a catcher.
Stephenson earned All-Jayhawk Eastern Division honorable mention last year. She was the leading hitter for ACCC with a .422 batting average. She had 70 hits. Stephenson drove in 19 runs and scored 32. Stephenson was the team leader in stolen bases, 16.
“Dana will see playing time at third and shortstop this season plus she pitches. She’s just a good all around player and has taken more of a leadership role this season,” Wilkerson said.
Sullivan is the team’s top returning pitcher. She had a 4.88 earned run average last year as she went 10-16 on the mound. Sullivan had 51 strikeouts and issued 30 walks. As a hitter, Sullivan had a .233 average with five runs scored, five runs driven in and 14 hits.
“Whitney has improved in all phases of the game. She has become better defensively and as a hitter. When she’s not pitching she’ll be playing a position spot in field and hitting in the second spot in our batting order. She’s a good control pitcher with good movement on her pitches,” Wilkerson said.
Gibson hit .247 last year with 23 hits. She drove in 17 runs and scored 10. Wilkerson said she primarily was the team’s designated hitter (DH) last year. This season she’ll be behind the plate as catcher plus see time in the outfield.
Talley is an outfielder but on the trip to Texas she filled the role of DH for Allen County. Wilkerson said Talley, who saw limited time last year, has the potential of becoming one of the better outfielders on the team.
“We’re young as a team. In fall ball, we had a rough start then came on strong as we progressed through the season. I expect the same this spring. Our inexperience showed in Texas and we just need to get playing time,” Wilkerson said.
Well, the youthful Red Devils will definitely get playing time with the new compressed Jayhawk East/Region VI game schedule. Wilkerson said there are more schools in the NJCAA Region VI Division II and the playoffs had been moved up this year.
All 10 of the Jayhawk East teams are playing NJCAA Division II softball this season plus four teams out of the Jayhawk West and the two independent community colleges — Brown Mackie and Hesston.
“With that we are playing more games back-to-back and in a shorter time than in the past. It’s going to push us and challenge us this season,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said he expected the Red Devils to be a sound defensive team plus put pressure on teams offensively with their base running skills. He said his team had players who get on base and others capable of driving in runs.
Starting with the pitchers, Allen County has freshmen Jenna Wendt from Osawatomie and Brianne Campbell from Westmoreland to join Sullivan. Wilkerson said Wendt throws the softball hard and is a rise-ball pitcher while Campbell is more of a control pitcher with movement.
“They both throw the change-up pitch well,” Wilkerson said.
At first base look for Kristian Popejoy of Higginsville, Mo., and she’s slotted as Allen County’s clean-up hitter, fourth in the batting order. Wilkerson said Popejoy is a solid defensive player that hits with power and for average.
When Sullivan isn’t pitching she’ll be seeing action as second baseman but when she’s pitching look for Terra Woods of Humboldt at second base. Wilkerson said Woods is a good athlete with good range in covering the field to get to balls.
At shortstop is Shawna Blakesley of Iola, who will bat third for Allen County. “We’re counting on Shawna in the batting order to hit not just for average but with power. She’s capable of hitting home runs for us,” Wilkerson said.
Third base will be shared by Stephenson and Sullivan, depending on who is on the mound for ACCC.
In the outfield, Woods is slotted into the center field spot while Kassie Summers of Sedgwick is in left and Amy McAfee of Allen or Talley playing in left field. The Red Devils also have Amy Carr of Iola vying for time in the outfield. Kylie Robbins of Springfield, Mo., has fractured her ankle and is doubtful for this season.
“We have a solid group of outfielders. Terra has the great range and strong arm in center. Kassie is an outstanding defensive player and we’re seeing her continue to improve offensively. Amy McAfee and Jordan both have shown signs of being productive hitters,” Wilkerson said.
“Amy Carr is one our top athletes and will see time in the outfield but also as a DH in our batting order. Kylie has a strong arm but the injury has her out probably for the rest of the season.”
Working with the pitchers from behind the plate will be Chalice Schmollinger of Louisburg. Wilkerson said Schmollinger is very good in keeping the softball in front of her and is sound defensively as a catcher giving Allen County some stability behind the plate.
Helping Wilkerson with the team this season is assistant coach Jamie Amerine, who played at Cowley County Community College then played at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She was a starting outfielder for both programs.
“Jamie primarily works with our outfielders and our hitters. Our outfielders have made strides defensively this season and we’re seeing progress at the plate by our younger players,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson is in his third season as head coach for ACCC. He said the Jayhawk Eastern Division is very strong and it is more balanced throughout.

Allen County Community College
2009 Softball Schedule

Feb. 11 — N. C. Texas
Feb. 13-14 — Cowtown Classic
Feb. 24 — Labette, 2 p.m.
Feb. 28 — Iowa Central, 1 p.m.
March 1 — N. C. Missouri, 1 p.m.

March 3 — Coffeyville, 2 p.m.
March 5 — Cottey College, 2 p.m.
March 10 — Labette, 2 p.m.

March 14-15 — Midwest Classic, Broken Arrow, Okla.
March 17 — Ellsworth (Iowa), 2 p.m.
March 18 — Crowder, 2 p.m.
March 20 — Hutchinson, 1 p.m.
March 21 — Hesston, 1 p.m.
March 24 — Kansas City, Kan., 2 p.m.
March 26 — Ottawa JV, 2 p.m.
March 27 — Brown Mackie, 2 p.m.
March 28 — Cloud County, 1 p.m.
March 31 — Fort Scott, 2 p.m.

April 2 — Highland, 2 p.m.
April 3 — N.C. Missouri, 1 p.m.
April 7 — Neosho County, 2 p.m.
April 9 — Cottey College, 3 p.m.
April 10 — Cowley County, 2 p.m.
April 11 — Independence, 1 p.m.
April 14 — Johnson County, 2 p.m.
April 17 — Dodge City, 3 p.m.
April 18 — Pratt, 1 p.m.
April 21 — Butler, 2 p.m.

April 25 — Region VI playoffs
May 1-3 — Region VI tournament
Home games in bold.