Potts fans 9, knocks in 5 for Davie softball
Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023
By Brian Pitts
Riley Potts was a rousing success in the Davie varsity softball season opener against visiting Starmount on Feb. 28.
She struck out nine as a complete-game pitcher. What’s more, she doubled, tripled and knocked in five runs – not bad for a sophomore who did not bat on varsity in 2022 – as Davie routed the Rams 11-1 in six innings.
This was the head-coaching debut for Nathan Handy. What made the moment doubly sweet is it came against his alma mater. Handy, a 2007 graduate of Starmount, lives five miles from the Rams’ campus.
“It was a very good start to our season,” Handy said.
Potts’ stirring performance included a bases-loaded triple. In the circle, she hurled a three-hitter and picked up her first varsity win.
“Riley threw the best game that we’ve seen her throw,” Handy said. “She worked hard over the summer and got back to where we thought she should have been last year (if not for an injury). She’s dangerous with the ball in her hand or the bat in her hand. So she’s a huge asset.”
Summer Simpson went 2 for 3 with two runs. Leah Grimes doubled and walked three times as Davie blended eight hits with eight walks and played error-free defense.
Davie 20, SI 5
Sparked by Raelyn Lankford’s powerful swing on the fifth pitch of the game, Davie accelerated its flying start at South Iredell on March 1.
Lankford, the sophomore leadoff batter, lit the fuse by cranking her first career homer in the bottom of the first.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kid so excited,” Handy said. “She loved that opportunity. She put in a lot of work in the offseason – she’s been hitting the gym a lot – and it’s paying off. She’s got the strength and it all came together for her. I knew it wasn’t going to be long this season before she put one out of the park.”
Leading 7-4, Davie blew it wide open in the fifth, sending up 16 batters and scoring 13 runs on nine hits, three walks and three errors.
“It was one of those where we got hot and it just didn’t stop,” Handy said.
The offensive fireworks came from Lankford (3-4, double, homer), Sydney Dirks (3-4, two doubles), Grimes (2-4, two doubles), Jaydn Davis (2-3, three RBIs) and Hanna Steinour (2-4, triple).
“As a freshman, Jaydn has done a tremendous job of being prepared for this level,” he said. “Hanna (a sophomore) has gotten better since last year. This is her first real taste of the varsity level.”
Dirks, who hit safely in 23 of 24 games last year on the way to a glittering .549 average, entered the season with an 18-game hitting streak. The streak was stopped by Starmount, but Dirks wasn’t about to have another 0-fer. She scored four runs as Davie combined 15 hits with one error.
Potts, who struck out six in just three innings, was the winning pitcher. She started the game, came out and then returned to the circle.
ND 3, Davie 1
North Davidson squeaked by visiting Davie on March 2. It was a hard-fought and frustrating loss for the War Eagles, who outhit the hosts 7-3 but stranded seven runners.
“We hit the cover off the ball. We just couldn’t find a gap,” Handy said. “Their defense made some plays. When we hit the ball hard, it was right to an outfielder. And their shortstop made a great diving catch in the pitching circle.”
The frustrating part for Davie: All of North’s offense came on one swing in the bottom of the first. After a walk and a hit batsman, senior cleanup batter Alex Gray, a Lenior-Rhyne commitment, cracked a three-run homer.
Gray won what proved to be a decisive battle against Potts, but the rest of Potts’ night was jaw-dropping. After Gray went deep, she retired 10 straight batters and 16 of the last 18. North only managed two hits from the second through the sixth. She walked one and struck out 10 in a three-hitter. And if you strike out 10 against the Black Knights, you’re pretty darn good.
“After that home run, Riley probably pitched the game of her life,” Handy said. “It was just an excellent showing of taking the next step of being a varsity pitcher. To shut them down the rest of the game, that shows where she can go. She has a great opportunity to be a huge leader for this program for three years.”
Simpson and Dirks reached in the top of the first, but Davie could not capitalize. Then Davie missed out on a golden chance in the fourth. Dirks, Grimes and Davis put together consecutive hits to load the bases with nobody out. Just when it looked like Davie was going to unload on North pitcher Kayla Milam, the junior lefty responded with back-to-back strikeouts before inducing a popout to short as the score remained 3-0.
Davie got on the board in the sixth, when Dirks singled and scored on a Davis double. However, that proved to be Davie’s final hit as Milam retired the last five batters.
“We had three opportunities (in the fourth) with people I trust coming to the plate,” Handy said. “But we’re starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores. So it may take us a few games to settle in and feel like it’s just another game.”
Dirks (2-2, walk) and Davis (2-3) had two hits each. Dirks went 5 for 6 against S. Iredell/N. Davidson.
“Sydney had a great game,” he said. “She was on base every time (against N. Davidson). We stranded her at second one time and at third one time.”
Handy saw lots of positives in defeat.
“We’re super proud of how we fought,” he said. “It hurts to lose, but we played our butts off. I’m confident after this that we are ready for the CPC.”
Notes: Neither team committed an error. “There were very few mistakes made by either team,” Handy said after Davie slipped to 2-1. “It was a great game.” … Last year North outlasted Davie 14-12. … North has won three straight and nine of 10 meetings.