Chipola College softball coach Jimmy Hendrix and his 25-player squad will have different kind of autumn season this year: They won’t have their normal SEC/ACC opponents because those leagues have prohibited play for the fall in an abundance of caution related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically, the SEC/ACC groups will schedule fall games with junior college teams as a practice run for the spring season, which actually starts in January, against other four-year-schools. The fall games do not figure into the statistics that lead to rankings.
That fall arrangement gives the four-year schools a chance to get their players ready and look at the young squads they compete against for possible recruits. It helps build experience in the junior college players as they get ready for their play against fellow two-year schools in spring.
Not having that opportunity this year is frustrating on one hand, Hendrix said, but it also results in new opportunities: Hendrix has scheduled away games with some high school travel teams to keep his players on the field competing and staying in shape for the spring games. That gives him a chance to see more potential recruits and also get more looks at those of interest in action, just as the four-year schools do when they play Chipola.
It’s a first for Hendrix, and he says he’s going to use the opportunity to its full advantage.
His team started practice on Sept. 18, and had a scrimmage game Wednesday night against the Alabama Fury travel team. Hendrix says he’s got some interest in a few potential recruits that play for the Fury.
Fans couldn’t be in the stands for that or other games in the fall at Chipola, because of COVID-19 precautions, and most of the games will be away.
In addition to the travel club match-ups, Hendrix will have his squad playing a lot of intramural games. He has a few more on the roster this year, so it will be easier than usual to field enough players for such within-the-team competition.
He has 12 sophomores and 13 freshmen this year. Local recruits include second-year infielder/pitcher Marissa Baxter of Sneads, freshman infielder Gabby Bess of Marianna, and catcher Kinzie Nelson of Bonifay. The squad has more sophomores than usual because circumstances related to COVID-19 interrupted studies for some of them, Hendrix said.
Once the regular spring season starts in January, Hendrix and his team expect to see action against their regulars, when scores start counting in the rankings.