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Softball preview: Staunton River

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New regime gives fresh perspective

By Mike Forster

 

It's a new look for the Staunton River diamond ladies.

New coach.  New conference.  Some new faces.

Whether that all translates into a new finish in the Blue Ridge remains to be seen.

In other words, there's a lot of unknown here.  But those unknowns will become clear as the season progresses, no doubt.

Going into the year, there is one thing that is certain:  This is a youngish bunch of Eaglets.  Not that anyone's likely to hide behind a shield of youth.  That, in spite of the fact that the team boasts but a single senior, a sole junior and ten sophomores.

"I'm excited," said first-year Head Coach John Weller.  "We're young, but they play year round.  And they've bought into what we're teaching them."

Weller takes over from "Duck" Dellis, who coached the team the past three seasons.  Weller came to Staunton River from Blacksburg, where he coached the JV softball team to a record of 16-3.

He by no means foresees such success during his initial campaign at Staunton River.  "This is a progressive thing," he said.  "We're looking to be extremely successful down the road.

"I don't equate success with wins...This year, we want to make progress."  Last year, the Eagles finished 7-14, and were knocked from the playoffs in their district opener.

Weller's elder statesmen include senior Kayte Walvoort, who started in left field last year.  The JMU-bound Walvoort is known for her hard work and her toughness.  "I'm hoping she can be a leader to this young bunch," said Weller.

The junior is Adri Baker, who is playing her first year of softball, and brings a lot of spirit to the mix.

The headline on this team, however, is that it returns seven lasses who played varsity as freshmen last year.  

Leading that group is Madison Meador, who was the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter.  Meador brings it all.  She's fast, has a quick bat, has a deft glove and is possessed of field smarts.  She'll have to step up into a leader role if this team is going to go anywhere.

Pitcher Tyler Creasey will also have to stay healthy.  The righty had a nice start to her freshman year, including a huge win over JF, before injury sidelined her.  "Pitching is her passion," said Weller.  "But her bat is an asset to our lineup."

Another asset is Taylor Carter.  She started in the outfield last year, but will plug in at catcher this season.  She has a big arm to second and is shaping up as a good field leader.

The leader of the outfield is Kyndall Witt.  She can cover a lot of ground from center field.  Her strong arm is nicely complemented by her solid bat.

A couple of other sophomores that should make an impact in the infield are Macey Arthur and Rachel Madelle (who was a late-season pull-up last year).  Weller likes the flexibility that the two give him vis-a-vis the corners of the infield.

Samantha Falls, another sophomore, can plug in at first, as well as in the outfield.

At second base, Weller has three solid options in Kelsey Padgett, Kaylee Ball and Makayla Ramsey to fill the shoes of the graduated Lauren Mitchell.

"I think we can be successful with what we've got," said Weller.  "They're very passionate about softball.  They want to do well and be successful."

Well, they'll soon have that chance.  The Eagles open play on St. Paddy's Day, when Heritage comes a-knockin' at their door.