Former Navarre standout Emily Pettigrew made quite an impression in her first softball season at the University of West Florida.
Pettigrew was the only player to start all 49 games a year ago and ranked second on the team in batting average (.331) while leading the team in hits (54) and runs (25).
The starting senior centerfielder is hoping to use that success and experience to her advantage this year as she aims to help the Argonauts put together a winning season. UWF finished 19-30 a year ago under first-year head coach Melissa Paul. The Argos were 11-21 in the Gulf South Conference.
“I got a lot of good experience and it has helped me feel more comfortable going into this season,” Pettigrew said at UWF’s spring sports media day Wednesday afternoon. “I’m trying to be more of a leader by example this year and play hard every game. I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Pettigrew is one of seven returning starters for the Argos, who lost 13 of their first 14 games but improved as the year wore on. They closed the year by winning four of their final six games.
“We’re coming off a tough season but the girls are excited and feel like they have something to prove,” Paul said. “We finished strong and hope to carry that momentum into this season.”
One thing is for certain and that is team has a better understanding of Paul’s coaching style and expectations.
“It was brand new for us last year and I think it put a little more pressure on us because we were all trying to impress her,” Pettigrew said. “We still want to impress her but we are a lot more comfortable.”
UWF opens its season Feb. 5 with a game against Tuskegee at the Gulf Coast Invitational in Gulf Shores, Ala. Only 21 of the 52 games UWF plays this year will be at home.
“The schedule will be a challenge but we are prepared for it,” Paul said.
In terms of the season ahead, Paul said the team has made changes that should help in the long run.
“Last year, we looked more at what other teams were doing and tried to play to their strengths,” Paul said. “This year, we are focused more on playing to our strengths. The focus is more on us.”
UWF baseball team has high expectations
It has been five years since the UWF baseball team won its first NCAA Division II national championship.
The Argos are hoping to return to the top of the mountain this season. With seven starters back among the 17 letter-winners, the potential is there for them to accomplish the goal.
“We have a lot of players back and have improved offensively,” head coach Mike Jeffcoat said. “We were fairly consistent in pitching and defense last year, and if we can play well on offense, we feel like this is a year we can contend for a championship.”
The Argos, who were 30-18 a year ago, will get an early opportunity to see where they stand at the national level. They play a three-game series at home against defending national champion Tampa Feb. 12-14.
“We haven’t talked about it too much but there are printouts of the Tampa dogpile after they won the title hanging up at every station in the weight room,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s only three games so we don’t want it to be the end all, be all to our season, but it’s a big series and our players are excited about it. It will give us a chance to see where we are as a team and where we need to improve.”
UWF is picked to finish second in the Gulf South Conference and is hoping to host the conference tourney this season. The Argos also want to be able to host the NCAA regional tournament this season. UWF last won a GSC tourney and NCAA regional in 2011, the year it went on to win the national title.
“Our goal is to win the conference and be the No. 1 seed in the regional,” Jeffcoat said. “We’re looking forward to the season. Our guys have a great work ethic and we want to put them in a position to be successful.”