CRESTVIEW — For the fifth time in six years, the Crestview softball team will have a new leader in the dugout.
Head football coach and athletic director Kevin Pettis will be in charge of the Bulldogs, taking over for Chris Sweatt, who is taking a year off to watch his son, Tate, a senior on the Crestview baseball team.
Time will tell if Sweatt returns to the softball dugout, but for now, Pettis is having a good time with the girls.
"We wanted to keep the continuity of the program going," Pettis said. "Sweatt does such a good job that we didn't want to hire somebody and then him want it back and then have to let them go. So I stepped in and did it.
"I've enjoyed being around the girls. They are hilarious and it gives me a chance to meet another sector of the students here, so it's a good deal."
Pettis is quick to point out this isn't his first time coaching softball; he's done so at past coaching stops in Georgia and here in Florida.
Pettis summed up his coaching philosophy in two words.
"Pitching and catching," he said. "It all comes down to pitching and catching. If we can pitch it and catch it, we will be fine.
"We have to find ways to score runs, but at the end of the day, it's all about pitching and catching."
Pettis is optimistic about the way the team is shaping up.
"We've got some girls that I'm very excited about," he said. "We've got Kristen Bufkin and Taylor Rolison pitching. And Megan Clark can come in and will be at catcher, which we are doing right now by committee.
"We've got good players. I think Kayla Kelch at shortstop is going to be great for us and Regan Sowell at third."
Molly Woodward also will see time at catcher once she joins the team when basketball season ends, Pettis said. Kelsie Dardon will play second base.
Gabby Thomas and Ashley Richbourg are two of six players battling for playing time in the outfield.
Two former Bulldogs, Shelby Gainer and Hannah Day, are playing at Northwest Florida State College. The loss of Day, last year's catcher, presented the team's biggest hole to fill, Pettis said.
"You don't replace Hannah Day," he said. That's tough. She ran things behind the plate.
"Right now, we have to have somebody step and do that."
For now, hope springs eternal with a new season's start.
"The girls have worked hard and they are going to do a good job for me," he said. "What we've got to do is concentrate on the bats. If we can get the sticks going, we will be fine."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524