Destin Middle School coach O'Brian is 'shockingly excited' about upcoming softball season

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After last season was cut short because of COVID-19, Destin Middle School coach Kati O’Brian wasn’t sure what her prospects would be for this year's Marlin softball season 

“We graduated four … and I really didn’t know what to expect with tryouts … didn’t know who was coming out,” O’Brian said.  

But after tryouts and one day of practice, she was fired up. 

“I was beyond excited … shockingly excited,” O'Brian said. 

“We’re stoked with what we’ve been able to pick up,” she said, noting that Carrie Plasier is her assistant coach. 

Destin Middle School softball coach Kati O'Brian works with Anna Beyhl on batting during a recent practice.

O’Brian has seven new girls on the 14-player team. 

The Marlins have one eighth-grader, Kylie Lebold, who is new to the squad. 

They picked up two fifth-graders, Ansley Cox and Macy Borgen. The sixth-graders are Kira Shock, Kendra Ayers, Anna Beyhl, Gretchen Kirby and Shelby Plasier; and the seventh-graders are Anita Palmer, Shay Kitchens, Hannah Isham, Izzy Douglas, Mykean Pope and Annabelle Shackelford. 

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“We’re a fairly young team, but that’s great,” O’Brian said, noting that she is constantly building a team for the next season. “So, we’re very excited about what we brought on.”

This group of girls has very many positives, O'Brian said. 

Destin's Macy Borgen fields the ball and makes a throw to first during practice.

“They are fast. They are coachable, and that’s huge for me. Their attitudes … they’re hungry,” O’Brian said. “Their defense is pretty solid.” 

O’Brian has three of her fifth-graders back from last year — Plaiser, Beyhl and Ayers — all who she said have “formed into teenage women overnight.” 

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“They are making throws they’ve never made before. They are making plays they’ve never made before. They are hitting the ball further and harder than they ever had before. They are literally transformed,” O’Brian said. 

New to the Marlins this year is Anita Palmer. O’Brian said she’s a utility player, playing anywhere from pitcher to the outfield. 

“And she’s got a stick on her,” she said. 

Kirby is another player new to the team. Kirby attends Rocky Bayou Christian School, but because Rocky Bayou does not have a softball team, she has been approved to play for the Marlins. 

Destin coach Kati O'Brian gives instruction to her catcher Gretchen Kirby during a recent practice.

“She’s going to be a huge asset,” O’Brian said.  

As a matter of fact, Kirby blasted a home run off O’Brian during her first at-bat in practice.

“She took me yard,” she said. 

O’Brian also spoke highly of her fifth-graders. 

“We’ve just got a good mix,” she said. “Best part is they are all happy. They all get along. They all have positive attitudes. I even have one that thanks me after every practice."

As for a weakness on the team, O’Brian struggled to find one. 

Izzy Douglas, a seventh grader, is one of four pitchers for the Destin Marlins this season.

“Maybe the fact that they are new as a group, learning how to merge together on the field,” she said. 

She ran down the list. Bats are not weak. Defense is not weak. 

“We are four pitchers deep. I don’t really see any weak spots. We just have to fine tune and learn a little more about each other,” she said. "We’re going to be a force. … I’m excited. And they are still the heart of the diamond.”

The Marlins' first game begins at 3:45 p.m. March 8 at home against the Meigs Wildcats.