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Once a coach, always a coach. College of Southern Maryland head softball coach Mike Garner knows that all too well.

Garner, who started coaching Little League and travel softball in 2000, heads into his fourth season as CSM frontman and a core group from that team is now the majority on his current Hawks roster of 10.

College of Southern Maryland softball

Head coach: Mike Garner (fourth season)

Last year: (20-12, 14-8, fifth in MD JUCO)

Athletes to watch: P/OF Kelci Therres (So., Thomas Stone, All-Region); CF Brooke Garner (So., Thomas Stone), OF Victoria Wright (So., Lackey, All-Region), C/IF Jennifer Nagy (So., Chopticon), 3B/1B Cheyenne Faunce (Fr., Chopticon), OF Miranda Reyna (Fr., Leonardtown), NP Alexis Gayon (So., North Point), 2B Kelsea Morris (Fr., McDonough), SS Brittany Bowen (So.,La Plata), P Megan Windsor (So.)

Key personnel losses: P/SS Kaylynn Balleaux (All-JUCO, All-Region), 3B Lauren Fairfax, C Rachel Bilbra, U Taylor Calvert, 2B Kaitlyn Fernald, U Tiffany Agostinelli (Academic All-American)

Strengths: The cohesive unit of the 2013 squad has been there for years as a core group has played together since Little League. Garner has also coached the majority of the 10 members, including his daughter Brooke, who came back to finish out her junior college career.

With two of the top pitchers in the conference, the Hawks are starting off on the right foot. Therres was in the top four in the MD JUCO with an ERA of 2.00. She finished with an 8-4 record. Windsor returned after finishing her freshman year with an ERA of 2.94.

Weaknesses: The numbers are low this year, but the positions are locked in solid. Garner said as long as his team stays healthy, the Hawks will be fine down the stretch. He’s still hoping that a few more players will come out to join the team, softball players who are already enrolled in college, but just haven’t come out for the team.

Coach’s comments: “Out of the 10, I’ve got seven returners. They’ve been playing for a number of years now with and against each other and I think the one year of experience has been good. We’ve got a good group of girls. I’d like to have one or two more. We’ve got some All-SMAC talent here, but they’re just not playing.”

Key games: March 27 at Anne Arundel, March 29 vs. Chesapeake, April 13 vs. Catonsville


He’s coaching his daughter, center fielder Brooke Garner, in her sophomore year. This spring is the last year of eligibility at CSM for the younger Garner.

“This is the group I started with, me and Brooke, back in Little League,” Mike Garner said. “These were the ones that got me back into coaching, from when Brooke was eight- or nine-years-old and she’ll be 20 next week. We started travel ball together about 12 years ago. It’s good to come in with them and now to go out with them.”

Brooke Garner said she’s enjoying the time on the field with her father and the reunited team, but added that this may be the end of college ball for her. She wants to focus on school and a career and said she thinks that the Hawks will be able to go far with the talent they have this season.

“I’ve played with every one of these girls since I was little, so this is bittersweet because I know this is it,” Brooke said. “I just want to have fun. I’m looking forward to whatever this year brings. It’s still fun playing for my dad. This has been a big part of our relationship.”

CSM was scheduled to host the Tommy Morrison Softball Invitational, but it was canceled due to rain and snow from last week. Despite that, the Hawks were able to get a doubleheader in against Anne Arundel on Saturday, winning both games with timely offense and solid pitching and defense.

One team that the Hawks will have to get past this year is Chesapeake, a team that gave CSM a run at the end of the season.

Lackey High School pitcher Amber LaBille, an All-State and All-Region) performer, transferred from Chesapeake and is now playing at Davis & Elkins College (W.Va.) after posting 13 consecutive wins in her two years. CSM will face a much different Chesapeake on March 29 in La Plata.

Mike Garner said that Catonsville also had strong pitching just a season ago, but added that it was nothing his team couldn’t handle.

“It’s got to be done on the field, so… I try not to worry too much about that.” Mike Garner said.

In Saturday’s doubleheader against Anne Arundel, the NJCAA Division II runner-ups, freshman Cheyenne Faunce (Chopticon) connected for a home run over the left field fence. Garner was planning to use Faunce at first base this season, but he has since changed his mind.

“I had her at third base on Saturday and she gloved everything,” Mike Garner said. “She hit, she just played very well.”

Garner said he and his coaching staff have the defense set where they want them. McDonough graduate Kelsea Morris has just joined the team this season.

“Kelsea, a freshman, is a phenomenal second baseman for us,” Mike Garner said. “They turned a nice double play on Saturday.”

Morris, who started playing softball at age 7, said she’s looking forward to the season. She started off right with a key hit in Game 2 against Anne Arundel, singling and scoring twice in the game.

“I’m looking forward to the new experience outside of high school,” Morris said, “and just playing at a higher level. This weekend went well. We hit the ball well. I like to hit the outside pitches.”

Morris said she’s keying in on her hitting mechanics from coach Garner and she’s hoping to continue to improve.

Shortstop Brittany Bowen, a La Plata graduate who played for the Bayside Blues in the offseason, said with it being her last year that she’s looking forward to a successful season.

“I’m really looking forward to the outcome,” Bowen said. “Even though we don’t have as many as last year, I think with the core group we should be able to last longer in the year and pull through in certain situations. I think we have a few more girls that can do more than we had last year, more versatile. Everyone was playing well Saturday. Our defense was on point, especially for our first time out together.”

The Hawks will host CCBC-Dundalk at noon Saturday in a doubleheader.