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Softball preview: Staunton River

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By Mike Forster

The Staunton River softball team is positioned to build upon the notable success that it achieved last season. However, the team is still in the "getting to know you" stage of the season, with five of the players just recently joining following post-season hoops play.

"Right now, we don't have a lot of clarity," said Head Coach Hoyt Dellis. "We've only had ballplayers for three practices and a scrimmage. Plus, the weather has been uncooperative."

Even with the lack of time to gauge the proficiency of his players, Staunton River should be in a pretty good state.

Having lost only two players to graduation, shortstop/utility player Audrey Ransom and right fielder Courtney Gisiner, the Eagles aim to improve upon their fourth place finish (6-8) last year.

A large part of that goal will hinge on the arms of the two Eagle starting pitchers, Raven Burnette and Chelsie Nichols. Both are right handed juniors, though the similarity ends there. Burnette is more of a hard-thrower while Nichols is the finesse type.

The duo had both their ups and downs last year. The high points usually ended in Staunton River victories while the low points featured either some control struggles or some shaky defense from their teammates.

Look for tighter play in the infield this season. Ashleigh Lawhorn should shine at first base. A solid fielder, Lawhorn can also hurt you from the plate. Along with a .290 average last year, she led the team in slugging percentage.

Samantha Mayhew, a senior, returns to second base. Mayhew is a tough and gritty player who showed she would hang in the mix when turning the double play.

Coach Dellis received some help as the gap at shortstop looks like it will be ably filled by Amherst transfer Kelly Jackson. Jackson showed her athletic skills on the basketball court during the Lady Eagles Regional run.

The hot corner is up for grabs between senior Lauren Smith and junior Lisa Crouch. It looks as though Dellis can't go wrong with either of these two, as both are proven performers. Additionally, Smith is a lively, vocal leader on the team.

The outfield features senior Caitlin Falls in center field. Falls was the leading hitter on the team last year with a .327 average.

Falls will be flanked by a pair of juniors. Ashleigh Overstreet will be in right and Joelle Forbes will be in left. Falls' little sis, sophomore Cori, is available for outfield duty, as well.

Jamie Hoover returns to catching duties. Dellis likes Hoover's willingness to give it everything she's got. A solid hitter, Hoover's defensive play improved markedly over the course of last season.

Other players are getting a good look, including Jordan Merrill (first baseman), Sarah Mayhew (promising infielder), basketballer Jessica Morris, volleyballer Heather Woodford and outfielder Brittany Webster.