With a young team, could this be the year the Panthers make the NCAA tournament?

The success of Georgia State’s softball team’s new season will be largely determined by the younger players on the team. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

The Georgia State softball team has only six seniors on this year’s team, so younger players will see a lot of playing time this season. Their performance will largely determine how successful the Panthers will be.

The team will be without Megan Litumbe and Ivie Drake, two of the top players in Georgia State softball history. They were two power hitters who could bash the ball out of the park at any at-bat.

Now the team will have to play small ball and use its speed to manufacture runs.

“Our game as a team is going to be a little more small ball, and we have more speed than power,” senior outfielder Reagan Morgan said. “So, we just have to take advantage of what we have and work what we have to move runners around. We’re going to be using more signs offensively to make up for the lack of home run hitters, but we have a lot of good hitters, so I think we’re going to be okay.”

Morgan along with fellow seniors Mandy Chance, Remington Hasty, Kristin Hawkins and Arden Jobe are the seniors in charge of leading the pack.

“Coach sat down with me [and] another senior on the team (Remington) and asked us to be captains this year,” Morgan said. “So that has kind of in a position to be more of a leader, and have conversations with the team that I wouldn’t normally have.”

Sophomore Skylar Mosel burst into the scene last year as a freshman hitting .300 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. She made second team All-Sun Belt last season.

“It felt good because I wasn’t expecting anything like that freshman year,” Mosel said. “But that just showed how much work I put in.”

Mosel may not be one of the captains on the team, but she will surely be one of the best players and take on an extended role offensively and defensively.

Hawkins was named to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team, and she was the only player on the team to get the nod. Last season she batted .308 during conference play while hitting five doubles, one triple and two home runs. Defensively, she had a fielding percentage of .1000 and two putouts.

The Panthers will kick off their season with a five-game set in Hawaii. The team will play five games in three days against St. Mary’s College, Hawaii, Texas-Arlington, Fresno State and UCLA.

The matchup against Texas-Arlington is a Sun Belt matchup, but not during conference play. It’s something that head coach Roger Kincaid would have avoided if he could have, but it would require playing one of the other teams twice.

Trips like this shows the trust that the University has in Kincaid and the program because a lot of schools don’t allow such trips. But these trips don’t happen often. Patrick Murphy, Alabama softball head coach and friend of Kincaid, suggested that he take the trip. Kincaid looked into the option and signed the Panthers up for the tournament.

“It’s going to be a fun trip,” Kincaid said. “We have a lot of things planned to make sure the trip is memorable for them to make sure they enjoy and have a good time. But at the end of the day were still there to play softball. They have to have a business vacation attitude. We’re not there for 100 percent fun. We’re there for business and fun.”

During her junior season, Chance pitched in 35 games, logging 128.2 innings with an era of 3.70. Kinsley Jennings, the other starter from last season, graduated, so Chance has the most innings pitched of anyone on the roster.

Joining her in the rotation will be redshirt sophomore Emily Soles who appeared in 12 games last season before getting injured. Mallory Parsons will also be pitching for the Panthers this season. Parsons was on the team last year but did not pitch much. The coaching staff is excited about her improvement this offseason. Transfer Savannah Freeman and freshman Holly Phillips will round out the rotation.

“We’re not big on labels,” Kincaid said. “We don’t have a No.1 starter, we have five of them, and we’re not scared to put them in the game,” Kincaid said. “We get 21 outs, and if we have the most runs, we get a win. We kind of pitch by committee and they understand that and when we give them the ball we want to go give them a win.”

Kincaid has been the head coach of Georgia State softball for seven seasons now, and in each one he has won at least 30 games. He is looking to lead the current group of Panthers to another 30-win season with a very young team.

For Kincaid, winning 30 games per year has become an expectation, and somewhat of a minimum for the team. He made it very clear that his goal is to win a Sun Belt Conference championship.

“If we only have 30 wins I’m going to be disappointed,” Kincaid said. “To me, 30 wins is a great benchmark and it’s something for people to talk about, but we want to win a championship. Winning the Sun Belt gets us an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, and that’s the goal.”