Softball team thinking positive

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, March 4, 2015

By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

It would be a shock if Davie’s varsity softball team doesn’t finish at least third in the Central Piedmont Conference. Davie has finished second or third each of the past nine years, taking third six times and second three times. The pecking order the past two years was North Davidson, West Forsyth and Davie.

But Davie’s new head coach, Dawn Lowery, is tired of watching the War Eagles finish third. A host of players are back from the winningest team in 13 years, and Lowery is looking for bigger and brighter things.

In her mind, the wait for one of the most anticipated seasons in years ended March 5, when Davie was scheduled to open the 2015 campaign against visiting North Stokes.

“We lost five seniors (from last year), but we’ve got a lot of talent – a lot of players who made a big impact last year,” said Lowery, who started on Davie’s last conference championship team in 2001. “Skill-wise, I think we match up with North Davidson and West Forsyth. It’s just a matter of, can we finish a game? How bad do we want it? Who’s going to  play harder and play better that game? Sometimes they’re just better than you. That’s not the case this year.”

Lowery stepped to the head of the table after going 46-16 in four years as the junior varsity coach. She replaced Darby Beck, who went 29-19 in two years.

Last year brought an upswing for the War Eagles. They went 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the Central Piedmont Conference. North Davidson captured the league for the umpteenth time with a 12-0 mark. West was 10-2. Finishing behind Davie were Reagan (6-6), Tabor (4-8), Reynolds (2-10) and Parkland (0-12). When the War Eagles prevailed 4-3 at Southeast Guilford in the first round, it marked the first playoff victory in four years. They exited in the second round, losing 8-3 at Porter Ridge.

Due to inclement weather, they managed to get in four practices in the first two weeks of preseason, including one outdoors and three inside the gym. Debbie Evans is back as varsity assistant, and Johnny Miller is back as pitching coach. The jayvee staff is brand new, with former star Morgan Wyatt taking over as head coach and Blaine Nicholson serving as Wyatt’s assistant.

The pitching depth looks as strong as it’s been in years. All three arms from ‘14 are back: senior Sarah Myers, junior Julie Gough and sophomore Olivia Boger. Myers hurled 80 innings in ‘13 and 59 in ‘14, winning six of nine decisions as a junior. Gough tossed 57 innings in ‘14, winning seven of 12 decisions. Boger worked 28 innings as a freshman, going 4-0.

“I’m excited about it because typically on jayvee we just had one pitcher,” Lowery said. “I think we’ll have a good 1-2 punch, actually a 1-2-3 punch. They all bring something different to the table. Myers is an offspeed pitcher, and she’s got a killer knuckle ball. Gough has a lot of control and a lot of movement. Boger has a lot of speed. It will be a nice combination.”

Myers, the only senior on the team going into this week, is a proven commodity as a hitter, too. She hit .521 with 24 RBIs in ‘13 and .368 with 24 runs, six doubles and 28 RBIs in ‘14. Besides pitcher, she can play first base and outfield.

“She’s one of our most consistent hitters,” Lowery said.

But Lowery has an abundance of talent. Sophomore K’lea Parks hit .400 with 25 runs, seven doubles and 19 RBIs last year.

“K’lea came through big as a freshman,” she said. “And she’s improved in the offseason. We’re trying to figure out the best combination for the infield. She can play third or short. She’s really good at both positions. She played third up until last year, and last year she played short and did great.”

Sophomore Makenzie Smith hit .351 with five doubles and 13 RBIs last year. She plays second base.

“She’s put in a ton of work in the offseason, and I’ve seen her improve tremendously since last year – and she was great last year,” she said. “She’s going to be a leader on the team. She’s very dedicated to the game.”

One of the most talented players missed virtually all of ‘14 with a knee injury. Sophomore Jessie Beck only saw four at-bats, but she’s back to 100 percent.

“She can play anywhere,” Lowery said. “We’re looking at her at third base. She’s the kind of player that every coach wants on their team. She can lay down a bunt and beat it out or she can hit the ball over the fence.”

Sophomore Kelsey Brown is a catcher who hit .309 with 13 RBIs and 11 walks/hit by pitches. She could play some first, second or third.

“She’s strong behind the plate,” she said. “She’s got a great arm and she works hard.”

The likely center fielder is sophomore McKenzie Barneycastle, who hit .294 with nine walks and seven stolen bases. In ‘14 she started the season on JV before getting called up.

“She’s got a lot of speed,” she said. “She’s our only returning outfielder.”

Junior Lindsey Custer is a catcher/outfielder who went 4 for 16 as a varsity backup in ‘14.

“(Her playing time) depends on what we’re going to do at third and who’s pitching,” Lowery said.

Sophomore Hannah Woody, who had six hits in 12 varsity at-bats last year, would have vied for the starting job at third, but she tore an ACL in the offseason and is sidelined.