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February 6, 2013

Robinson, MCC softball cooking up a surprise

MERIDIAN —     Faith Robinson is more than just a coach, she's a softball chef.

    The first-year Meridian Community College fast-pitch softball coach says her Eagles have the ingredients to surprise a lot of folks this season.

    "Our sophomores are very dynamic leaders," said Robinson, who was a player on two MCC teams that made the NJCAA National Tournament during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

    "They are the meat of the team, but of course nobody likes the meat without side dishes and that's where the freshmen come in."

    She said she has been very impressed with how the first-year players have jumped right and helped solidify the team.

    Depth will be a little bit of a problem for the Eagles since the roster has dwindled down to 12 before the start of the spring season, but Robinson said that also provides plenty of playing time for her squad.

    The Eagles are set to open the 2013 season today when they travel to Wesson to take on Copiah-Lincoln CC in a doubleheader. MCC's first home games will be Monday when the Eagles play host to Jones County Junior College for a 1 p.m. doubleheader.

    While Robinson understands that pitching and defense are keys to successful softball, she also knows where her first love lies.

    "As players and as a coaching staff we do key in on the offense heavily," she said.

    "They have really come around. We are going to have some pretty productive sticks."

    The basic part of the team left behind by retiring head coach Robert Eakins, who started the program in the 1990s, was filled with power. But Robinson said that has been balanced by the speed of some of the sophomores.

    "The players were already here when I was hired (in June), but they have adapted well," she said. "We can play small ball, which is a big part of the game, but we are going to use our speed in different ways. Some of our players don't look very powerful, but they are. We hope to take advantage of that."

    Robinson says she will build her line-up with speed in the first two spots in the order and in the No. 7 through 9 spots and then load it with pop in between.

    While she is counting on some big innings out of her freshman pitchers, Robinson will also be looking to a sophomore to play a huge role.

    Jade Osborne, who will handle most of the catching duties, will also see time on the mound.

    "She kind of gives teams a different look," Robinson said. "If she throws well it adds another important piece to our battery."

    The freshman pitchers will take their turns on the mound are Kaitlin Polk of West Lauderdale and Jasmine Cherry.

    Osborne and Devin Batson will split time behind the plate, while Jerlisa Brown of Philadelphia is at first, Miranda Agee at second and Kenya Harris at short. Batson and Cherry will see action at third.

    Jessica Edwards is in left, with Khadijah Henson and Casey Bolton in center and Shumond Hughes, Kimberly Smith and Bolton seeing time in right.

    "We are looking for a big year at the plate from Devin," Robinson said. "Hopefully she will be one of those power sticks we are looking for."

    Osborne hit .500 during the fall, while Harris has popped up as a definite freshman to watch. Agee is being looked at to be one of the team's top base-stealing threats.

    "We have been working hard since August and they have come a long way," Robinson said. "I feel like this bunch is going to be very underestimated and will surprise a lot of people."

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