By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Friday, March 1, 2013 —
The five Stanly County high school softball programs are scheduled to open their seasons this week, weather permitting.
South Stanly begins the defense of their 2012 1A state title today at home against North Stanly, while West Stanly looks to repeat their success of last season when the Colts and reached the 2A West Regional Finals, losing to Madison two games to one.
The Bulldogs have several players returning this season and look to improve on last year’s one-win season with head coach Doug Talbert.
All-YVC selection Katie Dick (P/SS) returns for her senior year, along with senior Carrie Barrino (P/OF).
Albemarle returns junior McKinley Almond (P/IF) as well.
Newcomers for the Bulldogs include a transfer from California, Mary Armienti (P/OF) and a JV player from last year in sophomore Alyric Ellis (3B).
“We look to compete 100 percent in every game and the win/loss record will be irrevelant. We should have some great senior leadership mixed with some hard-working younger girls that will lead to success,” Talbert said.
The Knights look to four returning players to help Gray Stone and head coach Rod Orick improve on last year’s 10-12 mark.
Senior Catherine Harward (C), junior Katie Kepley (P) and sophomores Sydney Freeman (P) and Jordan Orick (3B) all return this season.
“We are still a very young team so experience will be something we will have to acquire throughout the season. We do have strong leadership from our only senior [Harward] and three juniors,” head coach Rod Orick said.
Newcomers this season include Ashley Howell (IF), Shelby Burris (1B) and Rylee Furr (C/Util.).
“We still have the limitation of not having our own field but we are very grateful to the folks at the town of Richfield for the use of one of their fields for our home games,” Orick said.
“I do look forward to the season and hope to better our record of last year.”
Head coach Greg Speight and the Comets look for an infusion of youth to lead to an improved season after going 9-13 in 2012.
Numerous freshmen may contribute this season beginning with catcher Heidi Smith and pitcher Whitney Griffin.
Senior pitcher Kadie Morgan and outfielder Jenny Speight will be looked to for leadership.
Juniors Samantha Pugh, Abby Fesperman, Hailey Chandler and Madison Chamley should also play big roles.
First baseman-pitcher sophomore Megan Luther also returns from last year’s team.
With only one practice behind us because of all the rain, the Comets still have a number of unanswered questions, but participation is up and North will field both a varsity and JV team.
“The girls' attitude has been terrific, they have been working hard and are all business,” Speight said.
The Rebel Bulls claimed the 2012 1A state championship last season but will have to defend that title in 2013 without seven seniors that graduated from last year’s 27-7 squad.
One of the teams’ strengths last season should be strong again which will be in the pitching department. The Bulls return All-SNAP Pitcher of the Year and All-State selection Steely Russell (9-4, 0.90 ERA), who was also the MVP of the 2012 1A state title series.
Senior Emily Hearne (7-1, 1.74 ERA) returns to the mound for the Bulls as well. Both she and Russell will handle most of the pitching duties, according to South Stanly head coach David Poplin.
Hailey Carpenter (.380 avg.) returns in the outfield for South, while Clancy Russell (.300) returns for South in the infield.
New to the team this season is shortstop Kayla Smith, who brings a solid defensive game to the field as well as speed to the batting linup, according to Poplin.
“We look to be very competitive and make another run at a state championship,” Poplin said.
The Colts’ dreams of a 2A state chamionship came up just short for head coach Wesley Kidd and the West Stanly squad last season. West was 23-7 overall and 12-2 in the Rocky River Conference, reaching the 2A Regional Finals.
Returning to the Colts this season is catcher Macey Webb, who has already signed her national letter of intent to play softball at the University of South Carolina next season. Webb played only part of last season due to an injury.
Also returning for West are seniors Savannah Blalock (P), Brittany Thorpe (SS) and Allie Furr (CF), along with juniors Samantha Lowder (2B), Allison Swaringen (3B) and Catherine Morgan. Thorpe played in the outfield last season but is expected to move up to shortsthop this year, while Swaringen has an injured shoulder currently and may not be available as the season opens.
Newcomers that will be expected to produce include freshman Maddie Brown and junior Kelsey Pardini, along with newcomers Brennan Broadway and Walker Barbee.
“A couple more JVs may come up to varsity; it’s going to have to play out,” West head coach Wesley Kidd said.
“We have some talented freshman; whoever hits the ball, I am going to put them somewhere out on the field.”