By Rick Mauch — Special Contributor
The first season of softball at Weatherford College was, as one might expect, a memorable one — but not just for historic reasons.
The team was a winner in its debut. In fact, the Lady Coyotes were one of the better teams around, finishing with a 35-24 record and taking third in the tough North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC).
The WC women also proved to be a force in the postseason, splitting their four games in the double-elimination tournament.
And with seven returning players, including five starters, expectations are high for 2013.
“We had a great group of girls to start and build our program around,” said assistant coach Haylee Williams.
“They worked hard and got better every day.”
And indeed they did. The Lady Coyotes stood 16-21 after their first 37 games. Then they went on a tear and were 19-3 over their final 22 games.
Among the chief returners for the Coyotes are shortstop Katy Vandewater (.345 average, 70 hits, 11 home runs and a team-leading 54 RBIs), pitcher Kylee Studioso (conference leader with 235 innings, 223 strikeouts and 24 wins, along with posting a 2.29 ERA), outfielder Samantha Alegria (team leader with 76 hits and 21 doubles, along with a .402 average and 42 runs), outfielder and Aledo High product Carolyn Clayton (led the team in runs with 45) and pitcher/first baseman Emily Ditmore from Azle (.317 average, .957 fielding percentage).
Studioso, Vandewater and Alegria were first-team All-Conference last season, while Clayton and Ditmore were second-team picks.
Clayton started in the outfield last season, while reserves Makayla Baeza (outfield) and April Galvan (third base) are also back.
A host of newcomers has Williams excited.
Luci Ponce, a left-handed first baseman, can hit for power and high average. Kortney Koroll, catcher, is also a left-handed power hitter, and Williams is anticipating big power numbers. Middle infielder Sydney Kramer could post a high average with good speed on the bases.
Incoming outfielder Molly Holliday has the speed to steal a lot of bases, according to Williams. Marissa Pererya, third base, is strong on defense and can hit for average. Pitcher Bailee Wortham should see a lot of innings.
“Wortham moves the ball well and throws with good velocity,” said Williams of the Benbrook product.
Courtney Duplechin and Mackenzie Prescher, middle infielders, are also solid defensively, and outfielder Brittani Alvarado is a lefty slapper at the plate.
“We have a deeper pitching rotation. We should hit for a lot of power and a good team average,” said Williams. “We are more solid defensively than last year and deeper at every position.”
Williams said the chemistry is also everything a coach could want.
“Our girls get along great,” she said. “They have a good time, laugh a lot and enjoy the game.”
Williams labeled Temple, McLennan and North Central Texas as the main obstacles for her team in conference play. But she likes her squad’s chances at winning, and even making a run at a World Series berth.
“I think we have a great chance at returning to the regional tournament and should contend for the regional title,” she said. “We have to continue to get better every day — don’t settle or expect anything to be handed to us.”
The Coyotes begin their 2013 season on Tuesday, when they host Howard College at WC’s Stuart Field. The first game of the slated doubleheader begins at 1 p.m.