For Casey McCrackin and the Tate Aggies, 2015 is starting to feel a lot like 2014.
“It’s hard to say if it’s a beginning or a continuation,” said McCrackin, the team’s veteran shortstop. “There’s so many new people, it’s hard to say. Every year is different.
“We can’t say we’re still last year’s team (because) we’re this year’s team. I guess we can say it’s a new beginning.”
A new beginning with the same end goal: A state championship.
While the Aggies’ quest fell short last season, falling to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 7A State Semifinals, Tate thinks it may have the pieces in place to rewrite a different ending this year.
Only five games into their schedule, the Aggies (5-0, 3-0 in 1-7A) have been nearly unstoppable thanks to the efforts of coach Melinda Wyatt, senior veterans and new faces alike.
Pitcher Savannah Rowell, who missed last season with an injury, and catcher Izzy Werdann have been some of the biggest additions to the roster so far.
“On the field we have so much chemistry,” said McCrackin, a crucial piece of the squad’s run to the state tournament last season. “It’s so easy to talk to everyone. It’s easy to see everyone, see what they’re thinking and to be able to talk to everyone.
“You see everyone helping each other out. There’s a lot of chemistry on the team.”
No other teammate has benefited more than perhaps Tori Perkins, the team’s starting pitcher.
With Rowell back in the rotation (and striking out 29 batters in two starts, including 18 against Crestview) and Werdann behind the plate, Perkins is in heaven.
“It’s a blessing,” Perkins said. “I love Izzy. We didn’t really know what to expect (with Izzy) because I didn’t really know her and I’d never seen her play before.
“A pitcher and a catcher have to have that connection. … She came and everyone loved her, the team loves her and she’s an awesome catcher. She fits right in.”
Werdann, a senior transfer, instantly settled into her role on the team as catcher.
“(Tori) throws it hard, throws a sharp movement on the pitches,” Werdann said. “She just whips it in there. It just comes right in and you’re like ‘OK. It’s here.’
“We have so much talent, it’s unbelievable. One through 19 — everyone deserves to be on the field.”
After missing the entire 2014 season with an injury, the junior pitcher has returned in a big way.
In addition to her 29 strikeouts, Rowell has only allowed two runs and three walks in her two starts this season.
“Honestly, I don’t even think about it,” Rowell said of her stat line. “I’ll come back to the dugout and everyone’s like, ‘That’s strikeout No. 8’ or ‘That’s No. 10’ and then I’m like ‘Oh my gosh don’t tell me that’ because then I start to think about it too much.
“I worked really hard in the offseason to come back and prove myself. Me and Tori compliment each other really well so we’re going to shut it down this year for sure.”
Still, the team is refusing to look too much into its early success this season.
Everyone realizes that the season is still young and that, ultimately, the first five games of the season will mean very little when the district and region tournaments roll around.
While the future may be bright, it is still one game at a time for Tate.
“We can’t live in the past, right?” Perkins asked. “We have to get everyone focused on this season, especially getting the upcoming juniors and first-time varsity players filling the places of the people that left last year. So far we’ve done that, so we’re doing good.
“We’re on an athletic high, that’s what coach says.”
2015 District Softball Classifications
• District 1-7A: Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, Niceville, Tate.
• District 1-6A: Escambia, Milton, Pace, Pensacola High, Pine Forest, Washington.
• District 1-5A: Arnold, Bay, Choctawhatchee, Gulf Breeze, Mosley, Rutherford.
• District 1-4A: Marianna, Catholic, Walton, West Florida High.
• District 1-1A: Bethlehem, Central, Laurel Hill, Malone, Paxton, Ponce de Leon, Poplar Springs.
• District 3-1A: Baker, Chipley, Freeport, Holmes County, Jay, Northview.