FAIRMONT — As far as player turnover, Fairmont coach Sandy Thorndyke is having Déjà vu right now with the way things looked leading into last season.
With the same kind of roster refreshing that he had going into the 2017 season, Thorndyke is hoping that the 2018 season can replicate the same success that ended with a trip to NCHSAA state playoffs and a tie for third place finish in the Three Rivers Conference with an 11-11 overall record.
“We’ve got four varsity starters back and we’ve got a sophomore (Andrew Smith) starting for us this year (on the mound), and the rest are juniors coming up from the jayvee team,” he said. “We’re almost back in the same boat as we were last year.”
The ones that will be looked upon to lead this season are the same pair that has been a big part of the last three seasons for the Golden Tornadoes in seniors Seth Thorndyke and Randy Floyd.
As juniors, both were guiding forces on the mound and at the plate last year. Seth Thorndyke hit .481 with 18 RBIs and two homers to lead the team in all three categories, and Floyd had a 2.04 ERA on 10 starts and went the distance twice. Thorndyke came on late to pitch for the Golden Tornadoes, throwing a no-hitter against South Robeson and boasting a 1.48 ERA.
“Randy is probably our best defender and pitcher, and Seth is probably our better offensive player and they can be silly just like the rest of them, and I probably stay on them more than I do the other guys,” Sandy Thorndyke said. “I expect them to do everything perfect, which I don’t think that is fair to them, but that’s baseball.”
Seth Thorndyke has taken the leadership to heart this year, but said that it has been something he has tried to do even as a starting freshman.
“We’ve just got to be leaders,” he said. “With this being our last year, we’ve got to do things that keeps this team up and running. All positive attitudes.
“When I was a freshman, I would try to be the first one jumping in front of the stretching lines and lead as many times as I could. This is my last year so I’ve got to really step it up.”
Seth is coming off an all-state season from a year ago and signed this fall to play baseball at Brunswick Community College next season.
Floyd, a UNCP signee, will have to serve as the ace for the pitching staff, but also as a watchful eye to help guide the younger arms, and the team as a whole.
“As a senior, you’ve got to be a leader to everybody, not just pitchers or your certain position, but everybody on your team,” Floyd said. “I try to help them as much as I can. I catch them every once in a while, I try not to too much, but I’ll try to help them locate and keep them mechanically sound. You’ve just got to encourage them.”
Mason Locklear at first base and Skyler Hunt in center field are the other two returners for Fairmont. Hunt hit .269 with 10 RBIs last year.
As far as the newcomers, Sandy Thorndyke has already seen them leave an impact with the team, just a few contests into the season.
“I think our little second baseman, Michael Richardson, who is our lead-off batter has made all the defensive plays so far this season , knock on wood. He’s going to make a big difference,” Thorndyke said. “Keljin Swett is our left fielder and has lots of speed and Jayden Freeman has been a good DH for us and that’s a plus.”
Smith is another arm that will get starts this season for Fairmont, and one of four that Thorndyke will call on this year fairly consistently.
“He pitches for us and frees up Randy to play shortstop for us,” he said. “We’ve got four guys that we can put on the mound, and after that we just hang on.”
Fairmont softball adjusting to new coaching
Being hired on as the interim softball coach late in the offseason, James Cadiz is trying his best to get the Fairmont softball team in a better position than it was last year.
“They want 2-and-whatever last year, and I just want them to have fun,” he said. “Let’s just do what we do. They are having fun out here and they are winning, it goes hand in hand and it works out for them.”
Having fun is something that Cadiz hopes can be contagious with his personality. The first year coach was an assistant for two years at Terry Sanford, and his attitude is one way he hopes to keep the team positive.
“I joke around with them and make sure they aren’t so hard on themselves and that way they can do what they do,” Cadiz said.
Fairmont finished 2-15 last season and had injuries plague the roster, but with the same core group back and some of the injured players returning, things are looking up for the Lady Golden Tornadoes.
Leading the group of returner are junior infielder Mackenzie Johnson and seniors Mya Strickland, Emma McMillan and Kaylee McMillan. Johnson and Strickland were two of the top bats in the Lady Golden Tornadoes lineup last year and will look to do the same again, while both of the McMillan twins are coming off injuries. Kaylee was the team’s leading pitcher two years ago, and Emma will anchor the middle infield.
“There are seven of them coming back and the girls are playing,” Cadiz said. “I said, ‘This is your team so y’all be ready to play.’ They are out here having fun and I like it.
“They’ve all played ball together so they know how the game goes.”
After serving as an assistant coach for the football team this past season, Cadiz has the same approach that he will use to coach softball.
“I’m going to coach like I coach football,” Cadiz said. “Hard nosed and making sure everybody is doing the right thing.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.