After losing two to graduation and a few to other interests, the Destin Marlin softball team is building a new unit.

“It’s a new family ... we’ve got six new girls on the team so we’re starting an all new unit,” said Destin softball coach Kati O’Brian.

Destin has added three fifth graders to the team and a couple of new sixth graders as well. Fifth graders are Kendra Ayers, Anna Beyhl and Shelby Plasier. Others new to the team are sixth graders Shay Kitchens and Annabelle Shackelford, plus seventh grader Harper King.

“I like the ratio of young to older more experienced players,” O’Brian said. “We’re seeing a good combo.

“We’re getting a lot of teaching essentially from older girls to younger girls. So we’re creating a new unit essentially,” she added.

Lady Marlins returning to the diamond include eighth graders Ava Smith, MJ Toth, Blakeley York and Olivia Payne. Sixth graders returning are Izzy Douglas, Hannah Isham and Mykean Pope along with seventh graders Addie Taylor and Lilly Rudd.

Although the Marlins have a good mix, O’Brian said their strongest asset is on the mound with starting pitcher Ava Smith.

“Ava’s a force. She’s just one of those passionate players that can throw a lot of heat on the ball,” O’Brian said.

Smith has several new pitches that she will be incorporating into her arsenal.

“You’ going to get a big variety at the plate,” O’Brian said. “She is really growing and her composure is really advanced this year. She’s just matured a lot on the mound ... so I’m excited to see that.”

And backing Smith up will be the defense.

“I’m a defense coach. Defense wins ball games, period,” she said. "If you don’t have a strong defense you have nothing.“

Right now the Marlins are in the process of finalizing their starting nine.

As for the bats, O’Brian said the hitting as well as the speed on the bases “is still good.”

“We’ve got some new ones that bring a lot of speed to the team,” O’Brian said. “We’ve also got some big sticks. We’ve got some left handed slappers.”

O’Brian said the Marlins plan to play the long game as well as the short game.

“You’ve got to have it all (to be successful),” she said. “And we’re excited to have the opportunity to bring home a championship again this year.”

Last year the Marlins lost three games, the last being in the championship game.

This year the Marlins will have a more competitive schedule with such teams as Shoal River, Davidson and Ruckel as part of their conference.

“We’re going to have more competition this year, which we’re excited for. I love a challenge and we’re going to rise to it,” O’Brian said. “The competition is going to be fierce ... and we’re really honing in on what we can do defensively and base running.

“And base running is key,” she added. “If you get on the base and you don’t know what your doing you can’t capitalize.”

The Marlins will open on Feb. 19 at home at 3:30 p.m. against the Bruner Spartans.