Softball talented – again

Published 10:47 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

Six girls who produced lots of memorable moments for Davie softball are gone: Makenzie Smith, K’lea Parks, Jessie Beck, McKenzie Barneycastle and Olivia Boger. Junior Desiree Lewis has been lost for the 2018 season due to injury.

But Davie is still filled with talent.

Last year was historic for the War Eagles. They went 22-5, won the conference tournament and reached the third round, or the final 16, in the 4-A playoffs. After finishing second in the regular season behind North Davidson, they captured the Central Piedmont Conference Tournament to celebrate their first league title since 2001. They broke the record for wins in the 21-year history of fastpitch.

And in 2018, Davie looks good enough to make another mighty run. The Evil Empire is out of the way as North Davidson dropped down to 2-A. You can’t ever count out West Forsyth, but Davie has to be considered one of the favorites for CPC supremacy.

“I think we have a lot of potential to kind of pick up where we left off last year,” said fourth-year coach Dawn Lowery, who is 58-23 overall and 28-8 in the CPC since 2015. “We’ve got some seniors who are ready to step into those shoes and lead our team to success again.”

Davie has an off-the-charts talent at first base and in the heart of the batting order. Senior Sierra Ferguson set six records last year, including season marks for hits (47), RBIs (47), average (.573) and home runs (10). She owns the career record for homers (14), and she enters the year with an unparalleled 35-game hitting streak. The lefty and Winthrop commitment will bat third or fourth in the order.

“Sierra is a freak,” Lowery said. “I’m just thankful that I’m on the same side as her versus against her.”

Seniors Anna Devereaux (Charlotte commitment) and Bridgett Tierney (Lander) are dynamic core players as fourth-year starters. Tierney, the center fielder and leadoff batter, hit .459 last year. Devereaux, the left fielder and third or fourth batter, hit .352.

“You can tell Bridgett has worked on a lot of different things to add some versatility to her game,” Lowery said. “She’s a smart player. She knows what to do and when to do it. A lot of times I just give her the green light to do her thing.

“Anna is a very strong offensive player. She can hit for power. She is definitely somebody you don’t want to pitch to.”

Sophomores Emma Patterson and Aisulu Ball are intriguing options in right field.

“Both have a lot of speed and ability,” she said. “We’re going to use our two leaders (Tierney and Devereaux) to nurture them, take them under their wing and teach them the ins and outs. But they have a lot of potential to be very successful outfielders for three years.”

Lowery has no worries behind the plate. Senior Sydney Hendren wasn’t a spectacular hitter last year (.257), but she more than made up for hit at catcher. She has committed to Guilford.

“She’s absolutely solid back there,” Lowery said. “She’s put in a lot of hard work, and I think teams are starting to recognize that she’s no joke back there.”

Junior Sydney Wyatt is a promising second baseman after hitting .344 (10 for 29) in spot duty last year. With Lewis sidelined, shortstop is unsettled. The candidates are sophomores Shea Woody and Wyatt and senior Emilee Dishman, who has committed to Elizabeth City. The third-base job is between Dishman and Woody. Dishman made her occasional playing time count in 2017, hitting .317 (13 for 41).

“We have a lot of power, speed and versatility,” she said. “Bridgett, Emma, Emilee and Aisulu are all slappers. They bring a lot to the table. Wyatt is a great bunter. She also hits for power. I might put her in the two hole some.”

No matter is more pressing than retooling the ever-important position of pitcher. Boger is a tough act to follow. Last year she set the season record for wins (17) and finished No. 2 in career wins (38). She logged 124 of 156 innings.

Senior River Simpson, who has committed to Montreat, junior Sydney Smith, who also can play outfield, and junior Rachel Bostic, who did not play last year, are vying for innings. Someone must assert herself and become a reliable arm for Davie to break its regular-season title famine. (The last such title came in 2001.)

Last year Simpson saw action in 12 games (three starts and nine relief outings) and worked 32 innings. She went 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA.

“Rachel looked really good in the scrimmages and we’ve seen good things in practices,” she said. “It’s going to help us out having a third pitcher.”

Losing Lewis, a junior who long ago committed to Mississippi State, to a foot injury is a huge bummer. She was the starting shortstop in 2016-17, hitting .298 last year with six homers and 25 RBIs.

“She’s got a pretty serious injury that she’s been dealing with since the end of last season,” Lowery said. “She’s a force that we’re definitely going to miss. She’s going to be in the dugout cheering us on. But her presence and what she brings to the table is going to be missed for sure.”

Lowery’s assistants are the same as past years: Debbie Evans, Blaine Nicholson and Morgan Wyatt.