As January comes to an end, the Lady Flames Softball team is about to begin their season.

Projected to finish fifth by the Gulf South Conference (GSC) head coaches, the Lady Flames are ready and eager to challenge for the conference title.

Coach Emily Russell’s team went 28-28 in 2018, earning the eighth seed in the conference tournament and winning their first GSC tournament game in program history.

This year, the Lady Flames look to improve for the GSC championship. Led by seniors Stevie Baird, Caroline Freiling, Claudia James, and junior Taylor Moran, the Lady Flames have a wealth of experience and talent ready to make some noise in conference play.

Emily Russell is in her seventeenth year and looks to keep the Lady Flames focused on the small things this off-season as they tighten up their mechanics.

“We’ve really worked hard on our defense to improve our consistency and maturity overall,” said Russell.

On the other side, Russell explained that the offense was not going to suffer from the new determination on good fielding and positioning.

“We’ve overhauled our entire hitting philosophy,” said Russell. “We always score a lot of runs, but we think we’ll be scoring a lot of runs more consistently.”

The Lady Flames welcome five new players to the team this year, and Baird explained that these new girls were only going to bring positives.

“A lot of new freshmen add a lot to our team,” said Baird. “We’re just planning on building off of team chemistry we had last year, adding in those new players and making it feel like more of a family.”

The Lady Flames schedule is very difficult, and the GSC is once again a strong conference. With teams like Alabama Huntsville and Valdosta State at the top, it is going to be a tall task for the team to handle.

“Our schedule is no joke,” said Russell. “It’s a tough conference, and you can get discouraged.”

Both Russell and Baird mentioned home matches against Valdosta State on Feb. 16 and 17 as big early season tests.

Russell is confident in her team to get the gritty wins then and throughout conference play, thanks to their hard work this off-season.

“Whenever it’s your turn to do something, you’re able to perform,” said Russell. “We’ll be able to step up in big situations where we let ourselves down last year.”

Looking ahead to the postseason, Russell is excited to see how her team will do.

“I don’t think a postseason run would be out of the realm of possibility at all for these girls,” said Russell. “[This team] feels really special.”

Baird had no qualms with where she thinks this team will be in May. This senior class is coming into the season fired up and convinced they can reach the pinnacle of GSC play.

“Top of the GSC,” Baird said. “Number one.”

The Lady Flames go on the road to play in the Gulf Coast Invitational on Feb. 1 to start their season.

Upcoming Lady Flames games can be viewed on the 2019 schedule.

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