Both Dadeville’s baseball and softball teams are in similar boats, as they are under the direction of first-year head coaches. But both said the transition has been going well, and the baseball team especially is entering the season with lofty goals.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a (Class) 3A state championship, and I really think we do have the team to win it,” Dadeville baseball coach Curtis Martin said. “We’ve been working hard this offseason. My main slogan this offseason and throughout the season is going to be focus and effort. I want the guys to give me their ultimate focus and effort. That can win or lose ballgames, and it’s really how bad you want it. I think we have a great group of guys that share the same ultimate goal with me.”
The Tigers have six returning starters, including leading hitter Slade McCullers, who finished with a .411 batting average and had 13 extra-base hits and two home runs. McCullers, a senior, will also pitch. Jake Outlaw (sr., SS/P); Alex Sims (jr., IF/P); Alex Walker (jr., IF); Cooper Childers (jr., OF); and Tripp McKinley (so., OF) also return.
Lane Smith, Walker Spraggins and Ty Bell are all making the transition from the JV squad to varsity, but Martin said he is confident in them moving up.
On the mound, McCullers, Outlaw and Sims all return with a lot of experience.
“I’m impressed because we have about three or four guys that can actually be that top guy,” Martin said. “It’s still up in the air really of who my No. 1 or even No. 2 is because it’s very competitive. I think we’ll be fairly deep at pitching.”
Offensively, Outlaw will lead off, and Martin said the strategy of the offense will be built around getting guys on base for heavyhitter McCullers. McCullers drew a team-leading 24 walks last year as pitchers began to pitch around him, and Martin said he’s hoping to force opponents to pitch to McCullers.
“Defensively, I also think we’ll be pretty solid,” Martin said. “We have a lot of versatile guys, and we have guys that can play in many positions, which is a really good for me to have. I have guys that can move from second to third, from short to pitcher, even catcher to first base or even from outfield to infield. I have a lot of guys who are just plain athletes.”
While Martin oozes confidence, first-year Tiger softball coach Jordan McGuire is a little more hesitant to set her expectation, but she did say she feels like she has a lot of talent.
With the Dadeville girls basketball team making a run in the postseason, McGuire got her entire roster back only two days ago, so she’s still learning how the pieces of the puzzle will work together.
Tiffany Rice (sr., CF); Cali Jones (sr., RF); Isis Johnson (sr., utility); and Brittany Claybook (sr., 1B) are all returning starters. Johnson could play anywhere from shortstop, third base to outfield.
McGuire boasts several infield utility players, as Timirian Tinsley, Malorie Meadors and Jailee Kirkland can all move around the diamond. Zoe Veres will catch.
Taking up time in the circle will be a combination of Makya Johnson, Meadors and Isis Johnson.
“I don’t know which one will be my top pitcher,” McGuire said. “It’s really going to be in different situations, we would have a different pitcher.”
Offensively, the Tigers are hoping to use variety to their advantage.
“I have a lot of good bats and not just our bats, but I’ve got bunters and we’re working with some slappers too,” McGuire said. “We’re trying to make us very versatile on offense.”
Dadeville has dropped down to Class 3A and will be in an area with Randolph County, B.B. Comer and Beulah. The baseball team kicks off the season noon Monday at Tallassee and will also play Clay Central at 2 p.m. Dadeville’s first softball game is 5 p.m. Monday at St. James.