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franklin county times

Patriots announce baseball, softball assistant coaches

Northwest-Shoals Community College has announced the hiring of softball and baseball assistant coaches.

Laken DiStefano and Kolby Robinson will assistant head coach Angel Brown with the softball program and head coach David Langston with the baseball program, respectively.

Patriots athletic director Taylor Franks said the addition of DiStefano and Robinson gives the Patriots a well-rounded staff for the 2022-2023 season.

“Our coaches, Langston and Brown, did a great job selecting assistant coaches to help complement their strengths as coaches,” said Franks. “Both our assistant coaches have had successful playing careers at the four-year level and are passionate about teaching and growing our student athletes into the best version of themselves on the field and off.”

DiStefano is a native of Florence and an alum of Central High School. She received the TimesDaily 4A-6A pitcher of the year two years in a row while also receiving awards for All-Area team and All-Region team. She was selected for the North/South All-Star game and All-State tournament team in 2016. While at Central she had more than 1,000 career strikeouts and .400 plus batting average.

DiStefano said she is excited about being part of the return of athletics to Northwest-Shoals, particularly because it will “allow tons of the talent that we have around this area that goes unseen or maybe unnoticed by other places the opportunity to play the sport they love for two more years and also be presented with the opportunity to go even further when they finish their two years.”

“I am super excited to have this opportunity, and I cannot wait to get on the field to start practicing and preparing for the start of this season,” DiStefano added. “I can not wait to see what this season holds and to see the girls all out on the field competing in the sport they love.”

She played collegiate softball for the University of North Alabama. As a pitcher at UNA, she received such honors as Gulf South Conference Freshman of the Week, GSC Pitcher of the Week, First Team All GSC team and All-South region honors by the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a minor in sociology. She finished her collegiate career at Union University. There, she helped lead her team to the GSC tournament for the second time in school history. She finished the season with 20 appearances and 14 starts. She finished sixth in the conference in strikeouts and third in the conference in saves.

“I will be able to take the lessons and information I have gained and learned throughout my lifetime of playing softball and pass it on to my players, to present them with the best environment, resources and opportunities possible to have success on and off of the field,” DiStefano said. “My personal strengths as a coach would be communication, understanding, compassion, selflessness, experience and determination.”

Brown said Patriot softball is “very blessed to welcome Coach DiStefano.”

“With her knowledge of the game, she will be instrumental in our success immediately as she shares her knowledge of pitching with our players,” Brown added. “From her personal experience as a player, she will be able to help develop our pitchers in the circle to compete well in our conference. She will be a valuable resource to our program.

Robinson graduated from Cullman High School in 2016, where he helped to lead the Bearcats to three state championship appearances and ultimately claimed the state title in 2016. He was selected First Team All-State.

He then played two years at Wallace State–Hanceville Community College. There he earned a 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association Gold Glove for his play on the infield.

He finished his collegiate career at the University of Alabama, where he made the SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll in 2019 and was College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District IV Team in 2020.

“He fits the criteria of everything I was looking for in an assistant coach,” praised Langston, citing Robinson’s character as well as his background in both JUCO and SEC ball, plus “the fact that he played in one the best high school programs in the state, at Cullman.”

Langston said Robinson will be key in helping prepare NW-SCC players to play at a championship level. “He has an understanding of what being a junior college athlete is about,” Langston said. “He’s a perfect fit.”

Langston said Robinson’s primary role will be to work with the infielders and hitters.

“Junior college baseball definitely holds a special place in my heart,” said Robinson. “We’ve got a great group of guys coming in, so I feel like we’re going to be able to get the ball rolling and hopefully surprise a lot of people.”

Robinson, who has been operating a training facility, said he’s excited to get back on the field and help shine a spotlight on players who maybe flew under the radar in high school action – just as he did.

“Baseball has been a part of my life ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “The more I talked about it and thought about it, the more I was drawn to getting back to college baseball.”

He said he will be able to relate to the players, with not-so-distant memories of being their shoes, and he hopes his experience of playing JUCO ball before advancing to an SEC team will be an inspiration and model to NW-SCC players hoping to pursue a similar path.

Robinson graduated with a Bachelor of Science in education, majoring in human performance in exercise science.

NW-SCC will begin fall semester classes Aug. 18. The Patriots will play their first fall exhibition baseball game at Bevill State Community College–Fayette on the Fayette campus Sept. 9. They will play their first fall exhibition softball game at the University of Tennessee Southern Sept. 10.