HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State’s softball team can easily pinpoint when their confidence began to increase this season and the plethora of freshmen on the roster grew up.
It was a March 8 doubleheader sweep over Lake-Sumter State College on the final leg of a Florida weekend trip.
“We were finishing up that swing and had played some really tough teams. We played as well as we could against Lake-Sumter, and they’re a solid team. We had looked awfully average up until that. I told assistant Sallie Beth Burch if we could play like that during the conference play, we would be tough to beat,” said Wallace State coach A.J. Daughtery. “I didn’t expect us to be as strong as we’ve been.”
Wallace State (42-11) opened its conference slate five days after the Lake-Sumter sweep and won 29 of its final 30 games to close the regular season, finishing with a remarkable 27-1 mark in Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) play.
“We definitely started clicking against Lake-Sumter. Our bats finally started getting on a roll, and I felt like we began to relax,” said outfielder Alysia Anderson, a freshman from Clements.
Wallace State has indeed been on impressive surge, and the top-seeded Lions carry that momentum into the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) Tournament, beginning today in Alabaster. Wallace State has a first-round bye and plays either L.B. Wallace or Marion Military Institute at noon.
Wallace State is seeking its fourth consecutive ACCC Tournament championship and 12th in program history. Wallace State softball is also a two-time NJCAA Division I national champion.
The Lions have already surpassed last season’s 39 victories, achieving it primarily with a deep class of freshmen. Wallace State entered the season with 16 new faces, including 15 freshmen on the roster.
“We say when you get to this point in the season, there are no more freshmen. We’ve played an entire fall together and wrapped up the regular season. It’s been very gratifying to see our players grow up. We still see the freshmen in them at times, but overall it’s been awesome to watch them mature into ballplayers,” Daugherty said. “I knew this was a talented group. It was just a matter of them figuring out where they fit into the equation and using their talents to help the team.”
Wallace State’s freshmen outfield trio of Keeli Bobbitt, Anderson and Sydney McKissick has combined for 101 runs scored, 62 stolen bases and they each lead the team in average. Bobbitt is hitting .432 with 23 stolen bases and 39 runs scored, Anderson hits at a .391 clip with 22 steals, 33 RBIs and 36 runs scored and McKissick is hitting .359 with 26 runs scored and 17 steals.
“We love getting on base and putting pressure on the defense. It’s fun to be that aggressive,” said McKissick, a Wetumpka native. “It’s been like that since the Lake-Sumter games.”
As a team, Wallace State leads the conference with 104 stolen bases and is fourth with 41 homers.
Meanwhile, a freshman duo has paced Wallace State on the mound.
Meagan Schwieterman settled in as the staff’s ace midway through the season and enters the tournament with a 20-6 record and 1.91 ERA. She has hurled 11 shutouts and recorded 155 strikeouts in 165 innings pitched.
Lauren Keplinger has been an effective complement, compiling a 17-2 record and 2.78 ERA in 25 appearances.
While the Lake-Sumter doubleheader was definitely instrumental, Schwieterman believes she personally turned a corner in late February start against perennial-ranked Chattanooga State, a game in which she tossed one-hitter, striking out seven.
“I realized my defense was out there to do its job as long as I attacked the hitters. I started gaining more and more confidence,” Schwieterman said.
Schwieterman has been tough to score upon this month. She hasn’t yielded a run since April 3, compiling 33 consecutive scoreless innings.
“I think as the season took off, Meagan Schwieterman developed an attitude where she was going to show people she’s among the top pitchers in the conference. She’s stepped up, grabbed the role and ran with it. She’s certainly had a good season,” Daugherty said. “We’re very pleased the way Meagan and Lauren Keplinger have pitched.”
Wallace State is four wins away from advancing to the NJCAA Division I national championship for the fourth year in a row. The ACCC Tournament championship is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. All games are streamed live at www.jockjive.com.
“We’ll have a big bull’s eye on our back. The target is big and that’s what we want and expect. We want to try to win every pitch and every inning and go out and play Wallace State softball,” Daugherty said. “If we do that, we’ll have a chance to do something special on Sunday.”
Added Schwieterman: “I’ve been looking forward to this tournament since last weekend. If we take care of us, we’ll be fine.”
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.athletics.wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
Staff Writer, Communications and Marketing
Speech Adjunct Instructor
256.352.8443 | office
256.339.2422 | mobile
Click here to submit a Marketing request.