Softball hungry for title

Published 8:41 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

Davie varsity softball coach Dawn Lowery has no problems with the War Eagles’ championship expectations, and she’s well aware of just how high those hopes are this season.

“Obviously, we have some high expectations,” the second-year coach said. “We’re trying to build off where we ended last year. We only lost one senior. (Sarah Myers) was a big part of our team, but a lot of these girls have matured and about every one of them has gotten better since last year.”

The War Eagles have been building toward the ‘16 and ‘17 seasons for a while. In 2014, they went 17-8 and finished third in the Central Piedmont Conference. In 2015, they went 18-8, finished second in the CPC, beat North Davidson for the first time since ‘01 and ended a losing streak to West Forsyth. They won 10 in a row, the longest winning streak in 14 years. They put up the most victories in 14 years and reached the second round of the 4-A playoffs.

With seven college commits and one signee, Lowery believes elusive glory awaits Davie just around the corner.

“We’re not a young team anymore, like we’ve been saying the last two years,” she said. “We told the girls we can’t use that as an excuse. We can’t say, ‘We’re young; we’ll get there,’ because it’s time for us to get there now.”

Julie Gough has signed with Guilford. Seven more War Eagles have committed to colleges, including Jessie Beck (Guilford), Makenzie Smith (Appalachian State), Olivia Boger (Mercer in Georgia), K’lea Parks (North Greenville in South Carolina), Anna Devereaux (Charlotte), Bridgett Tierney (Lander in South Carolina) and Sierra Ferguson (Winthrop in South Carolina).

Boger, a junior, and Gough, a senior, will share the pitching duties. Last year Gough led the team with eight wins against three losses while tossing 61 innings. Boger went 5-4 while logging 50 1/3 innings.

“They’re a good 1-2 punch because they bring a different style,” Lowery said. “Boger is a lefthander, so that’s always a bonus. They both have good movement on the ball. I think they’ll be a great tandem.”

The catchers are sophomore Katelyn Webb and senior Lindsey Custer. The first basemen are senior Kasey Potts and sophomore Ferguson. The second basemen are junior Smith, junior Beck and freshman Desiree Lewis. The shortstops are junior Parks, junior Hannah Woody and Lewis. The third basemen are Parks, sophomore Devereaux and Woody.

Devereaux is the likely starter in left field. Junior McKenzie Barneycastle and sophomore Tierney are center-field possibilities. Tierney and Custer are vying in right field. “Pretty much all my outfielders are interchangeable,” she said.

The top hitters in ‘15 were Tierney (.431), Barneycastle (.400), Beck (.344), Smith (.315), Parks (.296) and Webb (.282).

“We struggled a little bit hitting last year,” she said. “If we can get that consistent – and get the pitchers on their A game – I think we’ll make some noise.”

The War Eagles haven’t won the CPC since ‘01, but they came very close in ‘15 and they’re a legitimate contender to end the drought in ‘16. However, highly-respected West Forsyth and North Davidson will present problems. Last year West went 11-1 to win the regular season, followed by Davie at 10-2 and North at 9-3. North wound up claiming the CPC Tournament.

“(North and West) are going to be strong,” Lowery said. “It’s going to be about who wants it more. West lost a couple, but they have some pretty strong players returning. North Davidson is just North Davidson. They are always a strong team.

“I think we’ll hold our own. We’re going to put up a fight, and I think we deserve to be at the top, too.”

A potential spoiler is Reagan. The Raiders shocked West Forsyth in the CPC Tournament semifinals last year.

“Reagan is one of those teams, if you don’t respect them and don’t play your best, then they’re going to beat you,” Lowery said. “They have talent. Their pitcher is back and they’re well coached.”

Two notable nonconference opponents will be Forbush and Alexander Central, which has won a ton of state championships over the years. Interestingly enough, Forbush’s second-year coach is Jeremy Helton, who graduated from Davie in 1998. Helton was a football-baseball athlete at Davie.

“We’ve got some big games early on,” she said. “We play Forbush (this) Friday and Forbush was the 2-A runner-up last year. They have an excellent team. They’re going to hit the ball one through nine. That will test us in the beginning.”

Notes: The only varsity freshman is Lewis, who will also see time on JV. “She’s got a lot of speed that we can use,” Lowery said. … Lowery’s assistants are Debbie Evans, Morgan Wyatt and Blaine Nicholson.