Eastern Florida Softball Team Ready To Start Up
By Mark DeCotis // January 21, 2015
18 freshmen this year for Coach Yanes
BREVARD COUNTY, FL – Fourteen of the 18 softball players wearing Eastern Florida colors this spring are freshmen but veteran head coach Ed Yanes and his staff are confident the Titans can extend their postseason qualifying streak to 11 years.
The top four teams in the Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference will qualify for the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 tournament in Vero Beach in May, up from 2014 when just the top three qualified.
Eastern Florida finished third to qualify but made a quick exit, losing its first two games.
So naturally the goal this year is to not only still be playing in May but to make a deep run.
As for any complacency that fourth is good enough, so not to worry, Yanes doesn’t expect that.
“If we are going to go out and compete we’re going to go out and compete and take the top level and let the chips fall where they may after that,” Yanes said.“There’s no complacency in our program.”
“When the lines are on the field it’s time to go.”
And that’s reflected in the staff’s approach.
“Expectations again this year are obviously pretty high,” Yanes said. “Good talent level. With depth we have this year. . . . They showed pretty well (in the fall) and we’re looking forward to getting into the season.”
Last year’s team that finished 22-27 overall and 8-8 in the conference also was freshmen heavy with 13 and featured good speed at the top of the lineup. This year’s team appears to be more balanced.
“We do have some speed,” Yanes said. “We feel it’s a pretty well-rounded group of kids. A very good group as far as on and off the field. We have some kids we can interchange with different spots. We’re looking for them to grow pretty fast in the spring.”
Eastern Florida’s four sophomores helped set the tone in the fall when Eastern Florida’s depth allowed it to essentially play two different lineups and the veterans will be looked to as leaders again in the spring.
First-team all-conference selection and Jacksonville product Dajia Jones returns to anchor the all right-handed pitching staff. Jones also will play third base and will be expected to produce offensively.
Second-team all-conference selection Shelby Nazworth returns at catcher and Gabby Jones at shortstop. Both hail from Jacksonville. Orlando’s Sara Vicente will fill a utility role.
Also expected to pitch are freshmen Kayla Byers from Hood River, Oregon; Las Vegas’ Alexa Snyder; Madison, Florida’s Whitney Stevens and Green Cove Springs’ Shelby Griffis.
Jacksonville freshman Natasha Kistler fills the important centerfield spot.
Eastern Florida opens the season Jan. 30-31 in the JUCO Kickoff Classic in Clearwater. It plays its home opener on the Palm Bay Campus on Thursday, Feb. 5 hosting Seminole State College for a 4 and 6 p.m. doubleheader. Admission is free.
Eastern Florida’s first conference game is Saturday, March 7 at home against Miami Dade College.
“The kids are competitive enough to realize . . . they know what’s at stake,” Yanes said of finishing well in conference and the 10-year qualifying state streak.
“We’ve given them a little information on what it takes to continue to go there and be successful there. They take it upon themselves to know that they don’t want to be the ones to break the streak.”
“It falls back on us. If we don’t prepare them it doesn’t matter what they do. We have to help and guide them along the way. I think they’re going to do very well,” said Yanes.