Potts coming off record softball season

Published 10:52 am Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The 2024 Davie varsity softball team will find out how valuable three graduates were.

Last year Sydney Dirks, a freshman at Western Carolina, hit .512, tied the single-season home run record with 10 bombs and broke the career homer record with 24 long balls.

Summer Simpson, a freshman at Appalachian State, hit .388 with 41 hits, 20 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

And Leah Grimes, an anchor at first base for the War Eagles and now a freshman at Mars Hill, hit .333.

But the eternally optimistic Nathan Handy isn’t expecting a severe dropoff after guiding Davie to 17-7-1 and the CPC tournament title in his first year as coach.

“We’ve got the opportunity to win (the CPC),” he said. “We had that opportunity last year (in the regular season) but could not get out of our own way at times. We’ve got a really good shot.”

Last year the War Eagles recorded the most wins in six years and captured the CPC Tournament for the first time in five years after finishing third in the regular season.

Although Handy has an infield that needs to be rebuilt, he has a star in the making in Riley Potts, who had a record-setting sophomore season in the circle. She produced a 2.52 ERA while logging 127.1 of the pitching staff’s 152.2 innings, completed 13 of her 22 starts and struck out a record 155 batters.

“Riley is primed for another successful year,” Handy said. “(In the Feb. 17 scrimmage), she looked like the Riley from last year. I think she’s picked up a mile per hour or two on her pitches and the spin is looking great.”

An X-factor is senior pitcher Addie Hendrix, who is coming off shoulder surgery. Having to deal with shoulder issues last year limited her to one start, nine relief appearances and 19 innings.

“That really limited her innings last year,” Handy said. “So hopefully we will have relief for Riley so we don’t have to pitch her every single game.”

There is a lack of certainty around the infield.

“We’re still looking at a lot of positions after losing a lot last year,” he said. “We are rebuilding our whole infield, except for who’s on the mound. We had a scrimmage (Feb. 17) and we’ve got some changes to make. There are a lot of openings right now. We had two days of practice last week, and I guess the state thinks that’s enough for us to figure it out.”

Even though Handy walked away from the first scrimmage with questions, he isn’t devoid of talent.

Jaydn Davis is coming off a fabulous freshman season in which she hit .469 with two homers and 28 RBIs. Raelyn Lankford (.382, three homers, 20 RBIs), Hanna Steinour (.388, two HRs) and Carleigh Croom (.355 as a freshman, .281 with two HRs as a sophomore) are distinguished varsity veterans.

Davis and Lankford are the likely starters at catcher and shortstop, respectively. Steinour looks like a strong possibility at second base. Croom is locked in at center field.

Brenna Altiers, Abbey Lankford and Ashley Bledsoe are competing at third base. “Third base is open,” Handy said.

Jaedyn Altiers and Addie Brown are vying for the job at first. Delaney Parsons, who has 20 varsity at-bats in two years, appears to have the job in left field. Right field could be Landry Parsons or Raney Phelps.

“Is Riley going to be on 90, 95 percent of the time?” Handy said. “And then can we give her the support that we need to give her offensively?”

The War Eagles need consistent excellence from Potts and effective relief from Hendrix because it’s asking a lot for them to approach last year’s offensive prowess (.373 average, 9.5 runs per game).

“We’re definitely are not quite as strong offensively as we were last year, but a lot of that is because we’re going to start some freshmen and you just don’t know how freshmen are going to react,” Handy said. “It typically takes freshmen a couple of games to get accustomed to being under the lights and being out in front of a lot more fans than what they are used to in the travel ball circuit.”

Last year East Forsyth and West Forsyth shared the regular-season title with 13-1 records. Davie was third at 10-4, followed by Reagan at 8-6. Handy views West as Davie’s biggest challenge in the CPC.

“The hope is that we are the team to beat, but I know West Forsyth is going to be tough,” he said. “I don’t care what Kevin Baity has any year, he is always going to be tough.”

And then: “East Forsyth lost eight or nine seniors last year, so they may be in a rebuild. But they are not to be overlooked because Karlee (Honeycutt) is a great coach and she’s going to have her squad ready to play. A sleeper team could be Reagan. They’ve got a couple pitchers; they were freshmen last year and had to throw the whole year.”

The War Eagles have finished third, tied for second, second and third the past four regular seasons. Handy has put together a challenging nonconference schedule in hopes of smoothing the rough edges in time for the meat of the schedule.

“I think this year I have made it even tougher because of our first round last year against Porter Ridge (an 8-4 loss in the state playoffs),” he said. “I just don’t feel like we had seen enough pitching last year that really benefited us. We play North Davidson, Northwest Guilford, West Rowan, Lake Norman and East Wilkes. There’s a lot of good, quality teams that typically go deep in the state playoffs. Lose, win or draw, it is going to make us a better team because we are going to face the pitching that we are going to see come playoff time.”

Notes: The seniors are J. Altiers, Gracie Garwood, Bledsoe and Hendrix. The juniors are R. Lankford, Croom, Potts, Steinour and Parsons. The sophomores are Callie Jenkins, Davis and A. Lankford. The freshmen are Phelps, L. Parsons, B. Altiers and Brown. … Sierra Ferguson and Bridgett Tierney are returning assistant coaches. A new assistant is Courtney Stanfield. Mike Foster is back as JV coach. … London Dirks, a 2022 Davie grad, is a sophomore at Charlotte. “London has had a fantastic start to her career,” Handy said. “She had a big-time hit the other night against Florida State, the No. 5 team in the nation, and scored a run that proved to be the game-winning run.”