Softball Set for 2022 After Multiple Postseason Finishes / Jace Aymond
Photo: Avery Barnett delivers a pitch against the AUM Warhawks in the 2021 GSC Championship game. It was the first time the Lady Choctaws played in that game since the 2017 season.
For most teams, it is extremely tough to string together multiple “successful” seasons in a row, extending beyond the regular season. But for the Lady Choctaw softball team, they have done it year after year.
Since returning to the NCAA and being able to compete in the GSC tournament again in 2017, MC has made it to the postseason and competed in the regional tournament each year, with the infamous 2020 season as an asterisk due to COVID-19.
Last year was no different. Although the Lady Choctaws, who finished 21-22 and a 14-14 GSC record, only finished as the sixth seed in the conference tournament, it was after the regular season where they shone their brightest.
An extra-inning win on Senior Day was the perfect way to transition into the Gulf South Conference tournament in Oxford, Alabama. On their way to the championship game, MC defeated both nationally ranked Alabama-Huntsville and Valdosta State, with a dominant 8-0 victory over West Georgia as well. Although powerhouse AUM stopped the Lady Choctaws short of a GSC title, they had done enough to send them to the NCAA South Regionals. Although it was an early exit in the regionals, the Blue and Gold are more than excited to get the 2022 season on the road.
And on the road they will be, as the first 13 games are either away or neutral site games. With the season ahead of them now, junior pitcher Avery Barnett knows that there still are things that can be improved upon.
“We had a really good end to the season, but what I think we could’ve done better was have a regular season that goes a little bit more our way. That’s what I’m really excited about this year.”
Barnett also mentioned how a newer squad benefits them, saying, “We have a lot fewer people in numbers, but that makes us closer, and I think that’s what we were lacking in last year. So, I think having a better team dynamic in the regular season is going to help us out a lot.”
Along with Barnett, MC returns many key contributors, like McCall Lee, who was selected to the Preseason All-GSC team. The sophomore catcher from Brandon led the team last year in batting average at .388 on her first season as a Lady Choctaw. Her dominant season also saw her out front in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIs.
With MC tabbed to finish in sixth yet again in the preseason poll, they also bring back the likes of Jordan LaFosse, Rayne Minor, and the ever-dominant Avery Sanders. New transfers to the team also were highlighted by the conference in their Newcomer Watch List.
Jenna Ergle, a graduate student infielder, started in 32 games for the Boston College Eagles last season and has plenty of Division 1 experience coming to the Lady Choctaws. Carlon Brabham, a catcher and infielder from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, hit .449 for the Wolves last season in 43 games played and was also named a second-team All-American in the NJCAA. Finally, Alexis Laughlin, a junior outfielder, was .384 at the plate last season in 53 games for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and was an honorable mention in the All-MACCC team.
Barnett adds that they “have a really good incoming group of girls … It’ll just be interesting because we’re all going to have to mesh from playing at different levels, but I think we’ll be able to do it very well.”
Both non-conference and GSC play on the 2022 ledger will include some tough opponents. Four GSC teams ended the year ranked nationally in UAH, AUM at No. 21, West Florida at No. 15, and Valdosta State just outside the top five at No. 6.
MC’s season gets rolling on Feb. 4 against Barry University in Gulf Shores, where the Lady Choctaws play five games in three days. The highlight game of that stretch is a matchup against the Nighthawks of North Georgia, who was No. 4 to end 2021.
The Blue and Gold also will take part in the Charger Chillout over Feb. 11-13, with five games set for that time span as well. The final three contests are all against top opponents in No. 16 Young Harris, No. 25 Southern Indiana, and No. 10 Lincoln Memorial.
Ever since the Lady Choctaws were welcomed back to the GSC, they’ve consistently been a dangerous team that opposing coaches circle on their schedules. The team’s first game in Clinton is not until Feb. 23, where they host Spring Hill College. So even though MC has to wait for its first game on familiar turf, you can guarantee it will be a year full of talent, success, and the always-hanging thought that this is a team that can make history.