Diamond Preview 2022: Commerce
The Lady Tigers have enjoyed so much success since 2012. From 2012-14, the team won 54 games, making the playoffs each time including an Elite 8 Columbus run. Then came a tough 2015-16 stretch of going 12-35 with no postseason experience. But since 2017, it’s been the golden days for Commerce softball. Since that year, the program has 108 wins (5 20-win seasons), four region titles (regular season or tournament), state ranked in the top five each of those years, a state runner-up, Final 4, and three Sweet 16s. So it’s no surprise that we expect more of the same in 2022.
Head Coach: Melissa Mullis, 5th season
2021 Record: 20-8; State Sweet 16; Region Runner-Up; #3 State Ranking
“The goal is to win our new region of [8A D1] and beyond,” states coach Melissa Mullis.
Key Departures: Carson Hobbs, Grace Hobbs, Lauren Massey, Lexi Darnell, Anna Taylor, Kylee Taylor, Kendall Peters
Losing the Hobbs sisters is a huge blow. Carson, a 3-time region Player of the Year, was BLITZ Player of the Year after going 14-3 with a 1.48 ERA and 100 strikeouts in the circle, and also hitting .525 with 5 homers and 41 RBI. That’s production that cannot be replaced by a single player. The senior group from last season will be missed greatly.
“We have graduated 16 players in the last three seasons and seven are currently playing college softball,” adds Mullis. “Every season is different because we have a unique group that can do great things.”
Key Returning Players: Paige Vickery, Hailey Harpis, Graci West
Vickery is a returning senior pitcher and middle infielder that Commerce will lean on heavily. Harpis, a senior catcher and corner infielder, as well as junior West (pitcher/IF) are the trio that were key playmakers a year ago.
Strengths & Areas of Focus
Strengths: Camaraderie and Skill, as well as reputation
Sometimes a team’s reputation proceeds itself. When you hear that you’re taking on Commerce, you know you’re in for a fight even if you don’t know anything about the lineup or roster. That’s a great thing, as the Lady Tigers will have that to lean on heading into each game. They’ll hopefully be able to follow it up by proving it once the first pitch is thrown.
Focusing On: Communication and aggresiveness
According to Mullis, the team is really focused on great communication and aggressiveness in their style of play.