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Talk about “class” distinction!
Staunton River’s softball squad appears to be structured by grade.
It features an all-Class of 2011 outfield.
The battery is comprised of Class of 2012ers.
The infield is made up of four members from the Class of 2013.
That makes for a nice, neat way to describe the team’s makeup.
Head Coach Donald “Duck” Dellis, though, is seeking more than that. He’d like the team to wear the tag of “winner.”
Last season, the team’s first in the Blue Ridge, it went 1-7 in district play, its sole win coming over Lord Botetourt.
That year was marked by the Lady Eagles falling behind in the early going. It was also marked by gritty contests against eventual state champion Northside. River lost its two games to the Vikings by scores of 3-1 and 4-2.
“I look for us to be more unified than last year,” said Dellis, who is starting his second year at the helm.
The team has much to unite around. Junior Amanda Ferguson returns as the team’s prime pitcher. She has good control, so walks should be few. She’ll not overpower anyone, though, so the defense has to be solid around her.
Last season, that wasn’t the case.
Other pitching options include sophomores Carol Rice, who transferred from Liberty, and Sam Sisco, who came up from the JV during last year’s campaign.
The other half of the battery includes Michaela Hiett, a junior who is a solid all-around catcher with the potential to be one of the team’s leading hitters.
Also helping out with catching duties will be senior Brianna Krall, who can also plug into the outfield.
As mentioned earlier, the infield is a group of tenth graders. Lauren Mitchell returns at shortstop, where she picked up a good feel for the position during her freshman-year campaign.
Sisco should plug in at second base, where she’ll have to fill the big shoes of since-graduated Sara Mayhew, who was a first team All-Blue Ridge selectee last year.
Rice should see a bunch of action at third base. “She’s a good all-around player,” assessed Dellis.
The fourth in this quartet of sophomores is Addie Tuck, who will man first base.
Tuck is a three-sport standout, who was a big part of the Golden Eagles’ volleyball and basketball teams. She also brings a lot of life to the team. “She cracks you up,” said Dellis. “She’s a great kid.”
The outfield will be where the most seasoned players will roam.
Hannah Owens should shine in center field. Last year, Owens’s prowess was rewarded with a second team All-Blue Ridge selection. She has great speed and will likely lead off.
Morgan Linkous, who played third base the past two seasons, shifts to left field, in an effort to shore up the outfield. A powerful hitter, Linkous should bat out of the four hole.
Ashleigh Kelly, the third of the seniors, has shown a good streak of competitiveness and will prowl right field.
Abby Moran is another viable option in the outfield, and should see action when Rice pitches, with Linkous moving back to third.
Team captains are Linkous, Owens and Alyssa Spradlin, who is injured and may miss the entire season, alas.
The Eagles have some heavy lifting ahead. Their defense will be the key to whatever success they achieve in the Blue Ridge.
Still, with the defending state champs and maybe the best pitcher in the state (Byrd’s Jessica Mahoney) residing in the Blue Ridge, it will be a tough row to hoe.
Meanwhile, Alleghany is no slouch either, being comprised mostly of travel ballers.
If River’s defense plays strong and the team chemistry holds, however, a berth to regional play is within reach.