AUM Softball’s 2017 newcomers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. ( —- Auburn Montgomery softball head coach Eric Newell announced the addition of eight newcomers to complete the program’s 2017 class Thursday.

Joining the Warhawks for the upcoming season are transfers Kalee Sparks (Jr., OF, Hoover, Ala./Shelton State CC), Kaylin Finch (So., MI, Montgomery, Ala./Tuskegee University) and Christy Hendrix (Jr., 3B, Hueytown, Ala./Snead State CC), as well as freshmen Taylor Tiffany (Fr., P, Portageville, Mo./Portageville HS), Parker Pinholster (Fr., MI, McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy), Kendall Tucker (Fr., MI, Opelika, Ala./Beauregard HS), Chanel Newcomer (Fr., P, McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) and Abby Krueger (Fr., C, Monett, Mo./Monett HS). The class also included Madison White (Fr., C/3B, Hartselle, Ala./Falkville HS) and Jaycie Walker (Fr., OF, Headland, Ala./Headland HS).

Sparks, an outfielder from Hoover, Ala., comes from the junior college ranks where she competed for two seasons at Shelton State CC in Tuscaloosa, Ala.  During her tenure with the Lady Bucs, Sparks set a new career record for doubles with 33, while also establishing a new season high of 22 as a freshman. Last season, she compiled a .354 batting average, with 34 runs scored, 24 RBIs and a pair of home runs. She added a .451 on-base percentage and did not commit an error in the field. She hit .319 with 22 runs batted in and 39 runs scored as a freshman. Sparks also enjoyed a standout prep career at Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala., where she led the Buccaneers to a pair of area championships.

“Kalee is a very good defensive outfielder and isn’t afraid to layout to make plays,” Newell said of Sparks. “I love to see that intensity when recruiting a player. She’s also a middle of the order hitter that will hit for a high average and have many extra base hits.”

Finch, a middle infielder from Montgomery, Ala., joins the Warhawks following a one-year stint at Tuskegee University. Last season, Finch earned Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, a first-team all-conference selection and to the All-South Region Second Team by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association. She was also named to the SIAC All-Tournament team after helping the Golden Tigers to the conference tournament championship. In her lone season at Tuskegee, Finch hit .378 with nine home runs, 10 doubles and 40 runs batted in. She also picked up a team-best 11 victories in the circle, finishing with a 3.47 earned run average and 22 complete games. Prior to signing with the Golden Tigers, Finch graduated from Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, where she lettered for three seasons.

“Kaylin has experience at the Division II level having played for Tuskegee this past season,” said Newell of Finch. “She is extremely powerful and is a very gifted athlete. She has capability of contributing to the middle of our lineup.”

Hendrix, a native of Hueytown, Ala., comes to AUM following a two-year stint at Snead State Community College in Boaz, Ala. Prior to her sophomore season, Hendrix was named one of the top returning position players in Region XXII by the NJCAA and then compiled a .328 batting average, with seven home runs, 15 doubles and recorded more bases on balls than strikeouts. As a freshman, she posted a .356 batting average, with seven home runs and 16 doubles. In high school, Hendrix recorded a Hueytown High School record .535 career batting average, while hitting .429, with 18 doubles and five home runs as a senior.

“Christy is going to give us a lot of versatility,” Newell said of Hendrix. “She was a middle of the order type of hitter for her junior college, so we expect the same out of her at AUM.  She’s a great leader and a great teammate.”

Tiffany, a pitcher from Portageville, Mo., joins the Warhawks following a successful prep career in which she was a four-time all-state performer. As a senior at Portageville High School, she posted a 24-5 record, with a 0.60 earned run average and 404 strikeouts. With the total, she became the first prep pitcher in Missouri high school history to top the 400-strikeout mark and broke her own state record of 391 from her junior season. For her efforts, she was selected the Southeast Missouri Softball Player of the Year following her final season. In her four prep seasons (three in Missouri and one in Arkansas), Tiffany posted 86 victories, a 0.99 ERA, 1,310 strikeouts in 670 innings pitched, fired 11 no-hitters and 51 shutouts. She also recorded a .429 career batting average, with 13 home runs and 98 runs batted in. Tiffany finished her high school career ranked fourth in Missouri state history with 1,056 strikeouts, despite playing just three years in the state.

“I’ve been watching Taylor for a long time and I’ve always been impressed by her,” Newell said of Tiffany. “She has an impressive resume coming out of the Missouri high school ranks and I hope she can continue that success in the circle at AUM.”

Pinholster, a native of McDonough, Ga., graduated from Eagles Landing Christian Academy in 2016, where she lettered in softball, basketball, soccer and track and field for the Chargers.  A member of three softball state championship teams and two state champion track and field teams, she was a first-team all-state selection three times and earned first team all-region honors all four seasons. As a senior, Pinholster posted a .400 batting average, scored 24 runs and stole 18 bases. She posted a .460 on-base percentage.

“I’m not only excited for what Parker brings from an offensive standpoint, but also her defensive prowess,” Newell said.  “She is very athletic, jumps well, moves from side-to-side and runs well.”

Tucker, a native of Opelika, Ala., attended Beauregard High School, where she was a member of the softball, basketball and volleyball teams, as well as a member of the cheer squad. As a senior, she was selected the Opelika-AuburnNews Hitter of the Year, after posting a .404 batting average, with 10 home runs, 42 runs batted in 49 runs scored and a school-record 30 stolen bases. During her junior season, Tucker hit .399 with 21 doubles and five home runs, while swiping 28 bases. She was a second-team all-state selection each season.

“Kendall screams athleticism,” Newell said of Tucker. “I am excited about her upside and what she will add to our team.  She is quick, athletic and will provide us with a great deal of versatility.”

Newcomer, a four-year teammate of Pinholster’s at Eagles Landing Christian Academy, where she lettered in softball for four years and tennis for three years.  During her tenure with the Chargers, Newcomer earned Region Pitcher of the Year honors three times, was named to the all-region team four times and won three state championships. During her senior season, she posted a 17-2 record, including a perfect 13-0 mark in region play. She threw 28 scoreless innings in the state tournament for the Chargers and posted a season earned run average of just 0.78. Newcomer also hit .356 at the plate and drove in 24 runs.

“Chanel comes from a perennial state powerhouse in softball in the state of Georgia,” Newell said of Newcomer. “I like to recruit winners and I feel she certainly fits that criteria.  In the circle, she does a very good job of moving the ball and keeping the hitters off balance.”

Krueger, the twin sister of sophomore Allie Krueger, is a catcher from Monett, Mo.  A 2015 graduate of Monett High School, Abby holds the Cubs season record for home runs (6), runs batted in (37) and fielding percentage (.992), while also holding the career record for home runs (12), RBIs (95), on-base percentage (.543), fielding percentage (.980) and games played (115). She earned all-state honors as a junior and helped MHS to three consecutive conference championships.

“Abby is going to give us depth behind the plate and we are anxious to see how she will contribute to our team moving forward,” Newell said of Krueger.