The New Brockton Lady Gamecocks only got a chance to play six total games before the 2020 softball season came to an end, but the coaches and players felt like they were on the verge of something special.
New Brockton boasted just three seniors on a team that has been full of young players for the last several years, but the Lady Gamecocks were hungry for a big 2020.
“That’s really the disappointing thing about all of this,” New Brockton coach Wade Hussey said. “We only played six games – due to rain outs and other things – but we were really excited. It felt like we missed a great opportunity to do something great for New Brockton; the girls could feel it, I could feel it.”
Seniors Paula McKenna, Lacey Sprinkle and Mary Beth Smith were the leaders and the backbone of a young team.
“They set the tone for us,” Hussey said of his seniors. “It’s really hard to have leadership when everyone is a seventh or eighth grader and it feels like that’s the way it’s been every year since 2017.
“On the field and off the field their leadership was big for us and they really set the tone with that.”
All three brought leadership to the Lady Gamecocks in a different way. Smith led by example, McKenna was a fiery vocal leader and Sprinkle held her teammates accountable.
“Mary Beth didn’t have to say a whole lot but the kids respected her and they respected her with or without softball,” Hussey said. “Paula is more of the flamethrower and the ‘let’s go get it done’ type of person.
“Sprinkle was coming into her own and accountability was the big thing with her. She made everyone around her accountable. The last three or four weeks (of the season) she grew into a big leader for us and she embraced it.”
On the field, New Brockton is losing three of its top players, as well. Smith was a big hitter, McKenna had one of the team’s top on-base percentages and Sprinkle was the team’s solid third baseman.
“I had projected that (Mary Beth) would hit 10-15 home runs and a .400 (batting average); she was swinging it (well) enough to get there,” Hussey said. “Paula was always a mainstay for us, too, and someone that could always get on base. Power and on-base percentage is something we lose a lot with those two gone.
“Sprinkle really helped us out at third base, too. That a big difference maker for her to hold down that spot and allow us to move some other athletes out to different spots.”
Smith said that she – like her coach – felt like the Lady Gamecocks were heading towards a great season.
“We were in a huge building process and it felt like it was all coming together for us,” she said. “It bummed us out (for the season to end) but we knew everything was happening for a reason.”
Hussey said that losing his three seniors would be more like losing friends for him.
“I can’t even explain what they mean to me,” Hussey said. “I feel like I’m losing friends; people I could communicate with and they knew what I needed to have to get it done. It’s tough. I got guidance from them, too. They could tell me ‘hey, what if we tried this’ and really make suggestions to me, too.”
While the Lady Gamecocks are losing their leaders, McKenna said that the future is still in good hands.
“The future is definitely bright for the girls sports programs at New Brockton, especially softball,” McKenna emphasized.
McKenna said that not being able to finish out the last few weeks of the school year hurt but the seniors are going to make it work regardless.
“We were a really close senior class, so it’s very upsetting that we couldn’t finish out our last nine weeks,” McKenna continued. “But when we finally get to do graduation it will be something special.”
Sprinkle – who lost the previous two seasons due to a significant knee injury – said that of all the memories she’ll have of New Brockton, it’s memories on the softball field that will standout the most.
“Just going to (play) softball and playing sports and being around all my teammates and the energy they brought is what I’ll always remember,” Sprinkle said. “We all have these memories together to look back on.”