As the women’s softball team heads into its 2013 season, it is the first time in Florida Southern College’s history that there are not any returning seniors on the roster.
Outfielder Khaliah Brown, shortstop Christie Bailey and pitcher Lindsay LaChance are the three returning junior starters, the fewest number since 1990.
“We lost a lot of players from last year’s squad, but we have some good talent that returned and also some kids that came in and are brand new to our program,” head coach Chris Bellotto said. “As long as they keep working hard, I think we can win a lot of games.”
Bailey agrees with Bellotto that the team is new, but has a lot of potential.
“I think as the season goes on, I think we will gel together,” Bailey said. “We have good chemistry so far. We communicate a lot.
Junior pitcher Chelsea Oglevie and junior second and third baseman Gianni Artidiello are transfers from State College of Florida-Manatee who brought home First Team All-Suncoast Conference honors in 2012.
“I was able to grow a lot as a player,” Artidiello said. “I learned a lot. Coming in as transfers, I feel as though we’ve been able to bring in experience.”
Artidiello tore a ligament in her thumb about a week ago, and she has begun rehab, but it is uncertain as to whether she will play.
“We hope that we get balance from all three of those classes that we have,” Bellotto said. “I really think that they’re certainly capable of stepping right in and playing. I expect nothing but success out of them because I think that they’re good and talented players.”
Oglevie will be pitching, as well as playing first and third base until the players are certain of their positions for the season.
“[Coach Bellotto] has high expectations of me. She has a lot of respect for me, so I’m going to have respect for her back,” Oglevie said. “The fact that I can have a coach with such experience and tradition is pretty awesome.”
With a mix of new freshmen, sophomores and three returning juniors, Bellotto will search for the right position for each player as the season goes on.
“I think that’s going to be one of our biggest challenges, is finding our roles,” LaChance said. “We’re going to have different situations, so it will depend on the team that we play.”
The Lady Mocs will play the first nine games away, then come back for just one home game against Flagler before heading out for another 10 away games.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I’m used to it because at a junior college, we played everywhere,” Oglevie said. “I like playing on the road. I think it’s a challenge because you come in as the underdog.”
The team will play a double-header on Feb. 2 against North Georgia and Armstrong Atlantic in Columbus, GA.
“We’re playing some tremendous talent, and it’s probably one of the hardest schedules we’ve ever had,” Bellotto said.
With 21 regular season Sunshine State Conference Championships, Bellotto hopes to make regionals this year and add another conference title to the impressive tally.
“She has a winning mentality,” LaChance said. “We’re a small team, but we all get along really well. We all connect on different levels.”
Bellotto has been with the Lady Mocs from the very beginning. The team began as a club sport, started by Bellotto in 1979 during her junior year. She coached and led the team to place fifth in the state tournament.
In the beginning, there were no softball scholarships, nor were there proper uniforms for the team. Bellotto says the focus has changed tremendously, and consistency is key. She enjoys the family atmosphere at FSC as a small school with a Division II program.
“It’s about the student, then athlete,” Bellotto said. “My goal as a coach is, first and foremost, that they graduate. It’s easier at a smaller school because we have more hands-on, personal interaction.”
As the softball team heads into its 32nd season, the team and coach have high expectations.
“Putting all the pieces together will be fun,” Bellotto said. “We’ll have people in the beginning, perhaps, playing two and three positions because we need to. It’s fun to see the pieces fall into place. That’s still thrilling for me.”