Oct. 17, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech Head Softball Coach Sharon Perkins loves to compete.
About the only thing she likes more than competing is winning. But Perkins knows that winning is relative and hardly the only thing — especially in October.
Georgia Tech finished its Fall practice Sunday afternoon, dropping a double-header in Statesboro against Georgia Southern.
While losing late in both ends of a twinbill might normally leave Perkins, who enters her sixth year as head coach, a little on the ornery side, Monday afternoon she was quite upbeat based on what she saw from her entire roster of players.
“Some teams go into the fall and they’re only going to play the typical people that they’re going to play. I don’t really see a point in that,” she said. “I feel like everybody gets an opportunity in the Fall. Like what I told them [Sunday], ‘If you’re not successful in situations in the Fall, it’s going to be difficult for you to find a position in the Spring.’ Obviously, in practice you can still improve, but ultimately it IS about your results and what you were able to do.
“We play everybody and we play everybody in some different positions,” she added. “It’s really just trying to get everybody a certain number of innings. It’s important to put everybody in those situations. It’s kind of their time to shine and their time to prove who should be the ones that will play in the upcoming spring.”
Sometimes, experiments in Fall can pay off big come the Spring, or even a year later. Such may be the case on the left side of the infield, where incumbent shortstop, and All-American Kelsi Weseman saw action at third base, while last year’s primary starting second baseman, sophomore Ashley Thomas moved to shortstop to make room for incoming freshman Chelsea Thomas, who got a shot at second.
It’s a move that was perfect to try out in games in October against quality competition like Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Jacksonville State and Georgia Southern, all of whom Tech will see during their 2012 season.
It’s also one that Perkins traces back to 2010 Fall practice.
“It was something where Ashley did a really good job in practice, and situational things,” she recalled. “When Chelsea came in, she was just way better at second base than at third base. She’s learning third base, but you have to take the right angle or you’re not going to be able to cut the ball off. It’s just little things like that, to where they’re all improving but they improve at different rates.
“We recruit people for hopefully certain positions,” she added. “Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, you bring people in and you’re looking a couple of years down the line but you never really know what you’re going to get until you get the kid in, so, it’s kind of a little bit of trial and error.”
The trial of moving Weseman and Ashley Thomas saw very few errors.
“They seemed to just kind of roll with it,” Perkins said. “Ashley has been awesome. She has a great arm and she has great range. Kelsi has been absolutely unbelievable at third base. She has such quick reaction. She takes really good angles at a short distance, which is great. That’s what you need to be able to play over there at third base.”
While messing with an All-American isn’t always a good idea, Weseman caught on to her new position and everything hit at her in it.
“I’m sure it’s a little bit different but Kelsi just gets in there, and she just kind of rolls with it,” said Perkins. “She’s one of those where you could hit balls right at her from 30 feet away, and she’s going to catch every one of them. You can just drill short-hops at her. Not everybody can do that, and that’s the type of person you need at third base. So, she’s been great there.”
Perkins also was impressed with the incoming freshman class, the team’s physical condition and its hitting.
“I think we’re definitely getting stronger physically as a team,” she said. “For the most part we’re hitting the ball pretty well. There are still things we’re trying to tweak, situational hitting and things like that we’re trying to work with the younger ones on, but overall it’s been great. The freshmen have come in and done a great job. Some of the upperclassmen are starting to work to take some leadership roles, which is nice to see.”
Perkins will now process what she’s seen with her staff, assistant coaches Shaina Ervin and Aileen Morales, in anticipation of the start of the 2012 season, which opens on Feb. 10 against Pac-10 members Arizona and Oregon State in the Kajikawa Classic, held in Tempe, Arizona.
“It’s stuff that we’re able to go back and focus on for the rest of the Fall here and hopefully we can still get a lot of good work in.”