1A SOFTBALL SERIES: South Stanly seeks third softball title, takes on Bear Grass Charter
Published 9:49 am Thursday, June 2, 2022
Last season, the playoff paths of two softball teams now facing each other in the current 1A state finals series were crossed by the same team.
Both South Stanly and Bear Grass Charter were beaten last year by Camden County, who eliminated the Bears in the regional finals and topped the Bulls in the best-of-three state series.
This season, both teams used those setbacks as motivation for the seasons, with South going 28-3 and Bear Grass posting a 24-4 mark.
In Search of Title No. 3
Bulls head coach David Poplin said his team’s schedule this year was “probably the most difficult schedule we’ve ever played.” South played another state finals team, West Stanly, twice, along with games against Providence, Weddington, Whiteville and Scotland County; the team finished 10-3 in non-conference play.
The Bulls were 10-0 in winning the regular-season and tournament titles from the Yadkin Valley Conference, and take an 11-game active win streak into the state finals.
“We’ve just progressed day to day, week to week. They just keep bringing it,” Poplin said.
Poplin believes even if South had won the title last year, this season’s team would have been no less driven to win.
“They strive to win every game they play…I think the fire, the motivation would have been there either way,” Poplin said.
South’s ace in the circle is senior Ali Glover (21-2, 1.12 ERA), who has 176 strikeouts in 143.1 innings pitched. Opponents batted just .168 against Glover this season, including six shutouts.
“Ali basically waited in the wings for three years,” Poplin said. “She made up her mind through the winter that this was going to be her team. She’s stepped up and done everything possible that we could ask to keep us in games and win big games.”
At the plate, Maddie Poulos has had a strong junior season, leading the team in batting average (.490), runs batted in (58) and home runs (16). She also added 10 doubles, second behind Cassie Swink’s team leading mark of 12 doubles.
Poplin said Poulos never missed a strength and conditioning session after the dead period in July.
“She’s as strong as she possibly can be,” Poplin said.
If the South coach had batting practice, he added, Poulos was there.
“She made herself what she is,” Poplin said of Poulos’ efforts.
Poulos is not the only hitter who has put up numbers for the Bulls. Cassidy Smith, a sophomore, hit .374 with 34 RBIs, while senior Emma Campbell had 33 RBIs and hit .448. Skylar Mauldin, a junior, hit .405 and drove in 20 runs.
Poplin said the team has gotten contributions from every part of the lineup top to bottom.
Regarding the matchup, Poplin said he knows the Bears cause problems with their speed on the base paths.
“We’ll just do our best; that’s all we can do,” Poplin said.
From The Ground Up
On the site of a former public school which closed in 2000, Bear Grass Charter opened in 2012, with its softball program headed up by current coach Danny Webb.
Webb left the school when it closed but came back and “started the program from scratch,” he said.
A school with an average daily membership (ADM) of 221, Webb credits the development of a good middle school and rec program with having helped develop the Bears’ varsity squad.
Bear Grass came within one win of last year’s 1A finals, but lost to the eventual champion Camden County. That loss, Webb said, “fell in the girls’ heads that night when we lost. It really motivated them for this year and they’ve done a lot of hard work and dedication put into it. They don’t want to feel that feeling again.”
This season, the Bears lost four non-conference games, all by one run. The team is led by its five seniors, including Shelby Craddock, who Webb said played softball her freshman year but after two years of soccer came back to softball. All five seniors start for the Bears.
Bear Creek Charter also has two pitchers in juniors Madi Hall and Macey Bowen. Webb said both hurlers have been outstanding for the Bears this season.
One freshman on the roster, Faith Wisniewski, who catches and plays third base, has been a big help for the team, according to Webb.
Offensively, Webb said, Bear Creek likes to be aggressive on the basepaths, saying “sometimes it costs us, but more times than not, it pays off for us.”
The Bears have a solid defensive presence in senior catcher Addison Dotson, whom Webb said has not allowed a lot of successful steal attempts.
Webb said the Bears need to hit the ball consistently, especially with runners in scoring position, to be successful in the finals.