Stick it to ’em: Girls softball loaded with big bats

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

East Forsyth’s softball team might be the unquestioned favorite in the Central Piedmont Conference, but Davie’s offense will send chills down the spine of most every opponent the War Eagles face in 2022.

London Dirks is coming off a sterling season in which she hit .540. Besides posting the third-highest average ever in a season, she mashed 10 doubles, three triples and six home runs … in 16 games.

Sydney Dirks, who hit .400, matched her older sister with six dingers. Even though it was an abbreviated season, the Dirks sisters tied for third in single-season homers in Davie history.

Summer Simpson and Melanie Gobble are proven commodities after hitting .382 and .378 last year, respectively. Audrea Fowler was an instant sensation as a freshman, slamming five homers in only 29 at-bats as Davie averaged a robust nine runs per game.

The top six in the batting order could be Gobble, Simpson, L. Dirks, S. Dirks, Fowler and Leah Grimes.

“Carson’s coach told me she hasn’t seen a team hit like that, top to bottom, since (Davie’s 2017 team),” assistant coach Fred Smith said.

When the War Eagles played three scrimmage games in one day recently, they blasted five homers for the day, including two by Fowler and one each by L. Dirks, S. Dirks and freshman Carleigh Croom, who hit a walk-off shot against Lake Norman.

After back-to-back down years, the War Eagles had some success in 2021, going 10-6 overall and 5-3 in the CPC to tie for second place. They won at Northwest Guilford in the first round of the 4-A playoffs, then lost at Mooresville in the second round.

With six college commitments/signees, they could make louder noises this spring. Senior third baseman L. Dirks has signed with Charlotte. Junior second baseman S. Dirks has committed to Western Carolina. Junior shortstop Simpson has committed to Appalachian State. Grimes, a junior first baseman, has committed to Mars Hill. Seniors Bailey Snow and Kaylyn Nuckols are headed to Methodist.

“London and Sydney are studs,” Smith said. “The infield is stacked.”

Senior McKenzie Mixon and sophomore Ashley Bledsoe could split time behind the plate. “McKenzie’s got a big stick,” Smith said.

The outfield could see Snow in left, junior Gobble in center and Fowler in right.

“We’ve got to have Fowler on the field,” Smith said. “She can absolutely mash it. It’s unbelievable. Last year she was all-conference as a DH. That’s how good she hits.”

DH candidates are freshmen Raelyn Lankford and Croom and Nuckols. “We’re still working out who is going to DH for our pitchers,” Smith said.

While the team is truly loaded offensively and on the infield, the team’s ceiling could come down to pitching. The only arm with considerable varsity experience has been lost to injury. Last year junior Chesney Shook went 8-1 with a 3.45 ERA in a team-high 54.2 innings, but shoulder surgery is going to sideline her for the season.

“That hurts because she can throw some serious offspeed stuff,” Smith said.

Still, Davie has plenty of options in the circle. Although Riley Potts didn’t throw at all in the scrimmages against Carson, Lake Norman and Mountain Island, she is a tantalizing talent as a freshman.

“She can touch 60 (mph) when she’s healthy,” Smith said. “She’s got a mean knuckleball and a pretty good curve.”

Sophomore Addie Hendrix, Nuckols and freshman Delaney Parsons are the other pitching options.

“I think Addie is going to get a bunch of innings,” Smith said. “She looks pretty good. Delaney throws all offspeed stuff. She doesn’t throw very hard, but she can be a problem for a few batters. She threw in a scrimmage and did pretty good.”

Morgan Wyatt was the head coach the past two years, but she left in January to take an assistant coaching job at Lees-McRae College. The interim head coach is Debbie Evans, who has been a part of the program for many years. Lindsey Adams, Nathan Handy and Sierra Ferguson are the other assistant coaches.

The War Eagles will face a rigorous nonconference schedule.

“Our schedule is pretty tough,” Smith said. “We open with Mooresville, which bounced us out of the playoffs last year. We play East Surry, which is always tough, and Forbush. We play those three the first week. We also play North Davidson and Central Davidson. We’ve got some tough games.”

The War Eagles, who only graduated two seniors last year, have the ability to give any opponent a run for its money, but there is a mountain of an obstacle blocking their way in the CPC. That would be Keirston Deal and East Forsyth, which handed Davie half its losses in 2021. East beat Davie 7-0 and 3-1 in the regular season. In the CPC Tournament final, East beat Davie 6-2. In those three games, Deal struck out 47 and walked two in 21 innings. The lefty stalwart has signed with Oklahoma.

“I think they lost a lot, but they do have Deal,” Smith said. “Oklahoma is ranked No. 1 in the country and she is one of their top recruits.”

West Forsyth is always a team to circle on the schedule. Last year Davie and West tied for second behind 8-0 East. And Davie can’t sleep on Glenn.

“Glenn has a pretty decent pitcher who throws some offspeed stuff,” Smith said.

Davie’s seniors are L. Dirks, Nuckols, Snow and Mixon. Gobble, Grimes, S. Dirks, Simpson and Shook are juniors. Bledsoe, Fowler and Hendrix are sophomores. And the freshmen are Lankford, Potts, Hanna Steinour, Parsons and Croom.