Versatility is the name of the game for Allen Community College’s softball team.
The Red Devils, under first-year head coach Jamie Amerine, feature a roster full of players capable of manning multiple positions.
Such versatility already has become a necessity for the 2013 Red Devils, Amerine noted.
Audra Nelson, slated to become the team’s pitching ace, is sidelined for the early part of the season because of a knee injury.
In her stead will be Melissa Davidson, who otherwise would be at first base.
Davidson should be a familiar face for area sports fans. She was a standout pitcher for Humboldt High before signing with Allen prior to 2011-12.
Also filling in as a starter is Kaitlyn Rush, who played primarily in the outfield in high school, “although she pitched some in summer ball,” Amerine said. “Both know how to pitch, and both will be a good asset.”
When Nelson returns, she will bring a diverse repertoire of pitches.
“Audra has good movement on her pitches,” Amerine said. “Her best pitch is her drop ball, and she changes speeds well. But, it will all depend on how well she comes back.”
On offense, Allen fields what should be a strong lineup, Amerine said, filled with smart, aggressive and vocal players.
Maecy Charleston, a Manhattan sophomore, started every game for Allen last year, hitting .328 with 59 hits in 57 games and 30 RBIs. Her strength is in her defense, Amerine said. “She reads the ball well, and has a strong arm and can cover ground in the outfield. She’s also a good, vocal leader.”
Taylor Easum batted .315 for Allen in 2012 at third base, but her strength also is in her defense. “She’s very quick when it comes to covering bunts, and she’s got a good, strong arm,” Amerine said.
Kaylee Lucas should be Allen’s designated hitter in 2013, coming off of a .292 2012 campaign. “Kaylee has a strong bat and can put the ball in play. She doesn’t take a lot of pitches, but she still has a high on-base percentage,” Amerine said.
Kaitlyn Norris will split time in right and left field and should serve as Allen’s leadoff hitter. Amerine praised her arm and abilities as a slap hitter. She batted .205 last year.
Lauren Poertner (.238 in 2012) will split time between catcher and the outfield for Allen. She thrives in both positions defensively, Amerine said. “She has a good arm, and she’s aggressive in the outfield, while she also is a good defensive catcher, who really helps the pitchers. She’s a good leader.”
Mary Reilly (.250 last year) will man first base when Davidson is pitching. Amerine called Reilly another vocal leader “who is knowledgeable about the game.”
Paige Rothwell batted .346 in 2012 and will be Allen’s starting shortstop. “We’re looking for Paige to step up and really help this team,” Amerine said. “She has a good bat with good fundamentals, and she can cover a lot of ground defense. She’ll have a high on-base percentage and drive in runs.”
Freshman Bailey Burnett will split time between catcher and second base. Amerine praised the freshman for her blocking abilities behind the plate. “She’s been one of our standout freshman so far.”
Stormie Bush also should see playing time in the outfield. “She’s another vocal leader,” Amerine said, “and she’s very quick.”
Annie Gentry will alternate between catcher and a middle infield position, Amerine said. “She’s a natural athlete with good softball fundamentals. She blocks the ball well with a strong arm. Up the middle, she’s quick as a fielder and can get to a lot of balls. She’ll also be an asset for us on offense.”
Katelyn Pedrow will play at third, bringing some pop to the bat, Amerine said.
Likewise, Shayla Stephens will provide plenty of offensive pop to the outfield. “She can move runners and hit for powers,” Amerine said.
Sophomore Alexus Douglas, who batted .333 for Allen in 2012, is recovering from an injury. If healthy, she will see time at second base.
Bailey Ericson also could find playing time at second base, Amerine said.
AMERINE, a Lecompton native, served as an assistant under former coach Ed Wilkerson for the past four years.
“Ed gave me a lot of opportunities to do things a head coach needs to do,” she said. “He really helped he step up into the head coach’s duties.”
Having him on staff — he remains a trainer at the college — gives the Red Devils a valuable source.
“He’s always open if I have questions or ideas,” she said.
WHILE some players have established roles, Amerine said changes could occur if the Red Devils’ younger players step up.
“We stress in practice that every day is a tryout,” Amerine said. “If one of our ‘starters’ has a bad practice or is up or down, then it’s important to give other players a chance to step up.”
That said, “we will rely on our sophomores to step up and lead the team,” Amerine said.
Amerine said Cowley and Highland both are expected to field strong clubs this year and likely will play large roles in the Jayhawk Conference race.
“We were .500 last year, and our goal is to be that good or better,” Amerine said. “We have a chance to be a quality team if everybody steps up and does their part.”
The Red Devils are in Poteau, Okla., Saturday for the Carl Albert Tournament. Allen will face Carl Albert, Paris Junior College and Connors Saturday. Their home opener is Feb. 23 against Muscatine.