By Sam Doppke | Contributor
The College of Coastal Georgia women's softball team is off to a record breaking 2016 season. After the hottest start in recent history, the Mariners (10-4) have their sights set on making waves in the Southern States Athletic Conference as the season progresses.
“This is the hardest working team I’ve ever coached; they really want to change the culture around here,” said Coastal Georgia’s coach Mike Minick when asked what makes this team different from the past teams he’s coached. “The goal is to keep getting better and finish high in our conference.”
Minick, now in the midst of his third season at the helm, said this year’s recruiting class is the best of his tenure. He signed five new freshman and added a handful of college transfers to the roster, which only bolstered the Mariners talent and depth. With a revamped pitching staff and the offense and defense starting to get into a groove, this team is a fierce opponent for anybody they play against.
Conference play is quickly approaching and the question remains, can this team make an impact and finish high in the SSAC rankings? Being in the same conference as the two-time defending national champions (Auburn University-Montgomery) makes it a difficult task, but these girls believe they can win and win now.
Returning junior Taylor Horne, who led the team with a .358 batting average and seven home runs in 2015 said the 2016 squad has great chemistry.
“We play together very well and trust each other day in and day out,” Horne said.
Starting pitcher Dawn Stewart, who took the mound in 28 games last year and tossed the first perfect game in Coastal Georgia history earlier this season, had nothing but positive things to say about this year’s team.
“Compared to last year we are hitting much better,” Stewart said. “We’re the underdogs who will keep looking to come out on top.”
Hopes are high here in the Coastal area and for good reason. Although they’ve played only 14 games and their record is 10-4 through Feb. 29, these girls are already on pace to set the school record for wins and will likely be the most successful team since the College joined the NAIA in 2011.