NEWS, NOTES & COMMENTARY
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
By Bethany Bradsher
New staff, national ambitions
(ECU Media Relations
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When Beth Keylon-Randolph and
her staff arrived in Greenville to coach the East Carolina softball team,
they knew it was imperative to communicate their ambitious goals for the
program as soon as possible.
But that message was so
important that it couldn’t be rushed. And the first priority, before the
coaches could spend any time at all on their own dreams, was to hear from
“We spent a lot of time when
we got here, just getting to know them, and who they are and what they’re
about and their expectations of themselves,” Keylon-Randolph said. “We
wanted to see what their thoughts were, then we rolled out our expectations.
"At first, I think they were a
little taken aback by them, because we actually expected more than they
After 11 years at the helm at
Chattanooga State Community College, Keylon-Randolph became ECU’s fourth
head softball coach in October. She replaced Tracy Kee, who spent 15 years
as the head coach before being dismissed after an internal inquiry in
To assist her, Keylon-Randolph
brought in Steve Jaecks and Leah Kelley from her Chattanooga State staff.
It’s only been four months,
but with one weekend of play behind her, Keylon-Randolph could say without
hesitation that coaches and players are on the same page about the direction
the program is heading and their potential to make a national splash right
When Keith LeClair arrived to
lead the Pirate baseball team in 1997, he made ‘Omaha’ part of the program’s
lexicon quickly, reasoning that only the highest objective was worthy of the
team’s effort. Keylon-Randolph hopes to motivate her Lady Pirates in a
similar way, keeping the NCAA Tournament in their sights at all times.
“We put our philosophies in,
and they have grabbed it and run with it,” she said. “They trust us, and
they trust that we’re here for them, so that’s huge.”
The coaching upheaval meant
that the Pirates couldn’t play any type of fall schedule, Keylon-Randolph
said. So essentially that first tournament — the five-game Pirate Classic —
was a quick ramp-up period for a squad that features a young pitching staff
with an experienced core of two seniors and seven juniors. Through those
games, which ended with the Lady Pirates winning three and losing two, the
coaches saw a quick learning curve for a team that is figuring out what its
brand of excellence looks like.
After the Friday games, the
coaches had a long list of things that the players needed to work on. By
Saturday, the list was just of an average length, and by Sunday’s games the
list was considerably shorter. Both the staff and the players received an
education that will serve as their foundation moving forward.
“We had to try people here,
move people there,” Keylon-Randolph said. “What I loved was, every day I saw
a different part of our team understanding our philosophies and getting
better. By Sunday, they played comfortable, they played relaxed, knowing
they were going to do well.”
The Lady Pirates start the
season with four pitchers — sophomores Sarah Christian and Courtney Smith
and freshmen Mary Beth Smith and Morgan Eisenga — and Keylon-Randolph
expects to lean on the more experienced pitchers while still figuring out
the optimal situations to use the newcomers to the team’s advantage.
On offense, Keylon-Randolph
has been pleased with the depth of her lineup. From top to bottom, the
batting order shows an emphasis on power combined with an ability to make
the most of the short game. Led by preseason All-Conference USA pick junior
Jill Jelnick, the Pirate hitters should create some frustration in opposing
“Our lineup, when I look at
it, I think, ‘How do you pitch to these kids?’ because they’re such good
hitters,” she said. “I think we have a lot of power, and we have a lot of
tools because our power kids are also fast.”
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02/13/2013 03:50 AM