By Chad Dixon
The entire infield is returning for this season’s Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) Lady Pirates. Madison Whipkey returns to play third for her sophomore season. Taylor Hamblin will start at shortstop and Sydney Daugherty will return to play second base. Madelynn Formby will try to replicate an All-American-like freshman season and play first base.
“I think familiarity is always good, but this team has really good chemistry and I expect good things from them. We are very deep lineup wise and should be able to hit for power all through the lineup,” CVCC Head Coach Steve O’Steen said.
Formby led the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) or finished top five in several categories in 2017 including batting average, on-base percentage, homeruns and RBI. She hit an incredible .478 with a .524 OBP. She led the team with a .724 slugging percentage. She was tied for the team lead in RBI with 45, hit 11 homeruns and 15 doubles. She had 21 walks to 15 strikeouts in over 200 at-bats. O’Steen projects her to hit second in this year’s lineup.
“The number two hitter usually gets about 25 more at-bats than a clean-up hitter. I want her to get as many at-bats as possible. She has really gotten into better shape in the offseason and she hit over .500 in the fall. She is a power bat, but can lay down a bunt when we need her to as well,” O’Steen added.
Whipkey will leadoff in front of Formby. She hit .313 with a .368 OBP in her freshman season. She also had more walks than strikeouts (19-15). She was 9-for-12 in stolen base attempts. She hit eight homeruns and led the ACCC with 20 doubles.
“She is the type of player that you want up when the game is on the line. Her average and her power numbers were up in the fall and I think she is a great fit at the top of the order,” O’Steen said.
Daugherty cracked the top 15 in the conference with a .370 batting average and drove in 29 runs. She was second on the team with 54 runs scored. She stole 18 bases and was caught only once. Hamblin hit .286 with a .351 OBP. She drove in 39 RBI.
Joining the CVCC infield is also Enterprise State transfer Tatum Jones. She played at Opelika High School. O’Steen projects her to hit over .300 and also sees her as an outfield option. He describes her of having “quick hands” that separates her defensively and at the plate.
Camry Blackmon will return as the likely ace of the CVCC rotation. She was 8-5 in 2017 with a 2.65 ERA over 129 2/3rd innings. She struck out 45 batters, recorded five saves and pitched five complete games. She is a movement pitcher with a plus drop ball and curve. Smiths Station’s Savannah Bussey likely is two or three in the rotation. She is more of a velocity pitcher and led the team in strikeouts in the fall season.
Allison Moore pitched only 10 innings last spring, but pitched several innings in the fall. She posted a 1.31 ERA in the spring. O’Steen indicated she “really stepped up” in the fall. He stated she is really good at getting batters to pop up to record her outs. Sophomore Haley White will also be in the mix for pitching. She pitched in limited time in the spring, but also pitched significant time in the fall.
“I think if we stay healthy, then we can really be good this year. I think the pitching, as a whole, is better this year. You do miss the 14 wins that (Kaylynn) Church got us last season, but I like the pitchers we have. The key for us is to keep the ball on the ground and to pitch into the defense,” O’Steen said.
The Lady Pirates begin their season on January 30 at home. They will host Central Alabama at 1 p.m. ET. They will then host Judson on Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. ET.