Coming into the 2021 softball season, plenty of unknowns existed for the Waverly Lady Tigers softball program.
Waverly graduated its entire pitching staff after the 2019 season. There was no 2020 season. Yet, so far, the Lady Tigers are off to a strong start, surging to 3-0 behind a complete team effort.
“We didn’t play last year, and we graduated all of our pitching,” said Waverly Head Softball Coach Scott Hayes. “We still are expected to win the majority of our games, compete for an SOC (Southern Ohio Conference Division II) title, and try to get to Athens to win another district title and keep going. That’s the expectation. The seniors have done a phenomenal job of teaching the freshmen and sophomores how we do things. I’m very pleased with the start.”
Since there were no high school spring sports in 2020 due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 shutdown, the spring athletes all lost a season.
“The weather has been beautiful for the most part. Every team is in the same boat — their sophomores are still freshmen too. Every team has essentially two classes of freshmen (in high school softball experience terms), and there’s no such thing as a four-year starter,” said Hayes.
“I had quite a few girls who almost didn’t play because they got used to isolation. They are all so glad that they have. It is great to be out here. The girls have accepted their roles whether it is a support role, a bench role, a part time role or a full time role. This is a great unit.”
On Monday evening under sunny skies and the temperature reaching 70 degrees, the Lady Tigers blasted past the visiting Minford Falcons with a 13-3 run-rule victory.
Waverly started hitting immediately, scoring three runs in the opening inning. The Lady Falcons plated their first run in the top of the second inning, only to see the Lady Tigers add three more in the bottom half, increasing the lead to 6-1.
Minford’s final two runs came in the top of the third on a two-run homer from Addison Lute. The Lady Tigers plated four more runs in the home half of the inning, two in the fourth, and the final one in the sixth.
Freshman Faith Thornsberry drove in five of the 13 runs, including the RBI that brought the game to an early end. She finished the day 3-for-5 from the plate. Seniors Zoiee Smith and Amelia Willis both went 3-for-4 with four runs. Smith, Thornsberry and Willis each added a stolen base as well.
Freshman Abbie Marshall drove in three runs on a 2-for-4 effort. Senior Emma Bellaw had the lone extra base hit with a double, going 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Junior Suzzy Wall was 1-for-1 with a run, one stolen base and two RBIs. Senior Maddy Collett was 2-for-4 with an RBI as well.
Camryn Campbell started in the circle, throwing five innings. She gave up three runs on three hits, while striking out four and walking one. Macey Gecowets threw one inning in relief, giving up two hits and no runs.
Offense was plentiful at Zane Trace on Friday, April 2 as well. The Lady Tigers were victorious in that slugfest, taking the contest 17-9.
Despite the frigidly cold temperatures, Waverly’s bats were hot off the bus, starting with four runs in the opening inning. The Lady Pioneers fought back to tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame and two more in the third, 4-4.
Waverly essentially took control by scoring 12 runs in the top of the fifth inning, following with one more run in the sixth. The Lady Pioneers didn’t give up, plating three in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 17-9. Neither team scored in the seventh.
Offensively, Suzzy Wall collected six RBIs to lead the Tigers, recording a grand slam homer and a double in a 3-for-4day. Faith Thornsberry also produced a home run and a double as well, going 2-for-4 with four runs and four RBIs. Abbie Marshall was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Emma Bellaw was 3-for-4 with a double, three runs and one RBI. Macey Gecowets had a hit and an RBI, while Hannah Snyder added an RBI.
Pitching-wise, Camryn Campbell went 6.1 innings, giving up nine runs (six earned) on 11 hits, while striking out four and walking five. Gecowets closed out the game in relief, walking one.
“We had the pitching battle to start the season at West. We had a slug-fest at Zane Trace. We had a nice run-rule win against Minford, which is always a quality program and a tough out. They are like us and don’t have a lot of experience,” said Hayes.
In terms of at-bats, Waverly’s experienced hitters are a small group. According to Hayes coming into the season, Zoiee Smith led with 194 at-bats, followed by Emma Bellaw (94), Maddy Collett (71), Suzzy Wall (50) and Amelia Willis (31). Everyone else had three or less.
Hayes said his players have done a good job of fighting and competing.
“Camryn Campbell is going to pitch the bulk of the innings. Camryn is really doing well. She isn’t overpowering. She puts the ball in play and lets the defense do the work,” said Hayes. “Macey Gecowets and Katrina Entler, as upperclassmen, have worked through the winter to be pitchers as well. They will give us one or two innings at a time.”
Defensively, Zoiee Smith and Maddy Collett will anchor center and left field respectively. Gecowets has taken right field, and Hayes is pleased with her performance so far. When Gecowets is pitching, Faith Thornsberry will move from first base to right field.
“Our outfield defense is really good with Zoiee and Maddy leading,” said Hayes. “Emma (Bellaw) and Suzzy (Wall) in the middle (infield) are solid. Amelia has been lights out at third. She has been a great surprise. As a sophomore, Amelia was injured and missed 15 games.”
Hayes is just as thrilled with the offense his team has produced so far. He also has plenty of other players who are competing for playing time. Hannah Snyder and Katrina Entler have both played as the team’s DP (designated player). Sisters Chloe and Ava Little, who transferred from Piketon, are also in the mix for playing time.
“Our DP spot is still up for grabs. Competition is good. It makes us better in the long run,” said Hayes. “I’m just glad to see the girls smiling and having fun. We lost a whole season. For the girls, especially the ones who only play softball, it has been different for them.”
Hayes has former players Kirsten Blair and Hailey Robinson assisting him with the high school teams, while Maddie Murray is helping at the junior high level.
“I am so proud of the program and the culture these girls have built together that shows that they want to come back. We have three players from the class that graduated two years ago who are back helping (Blair, Robinson, Murray),” said Hayes.
“We’ve had others come back when they can. All it does is help the program. You can talk about wins and losses all you want. They (the graduates) are role models and set an example of what we want as young ladies, who will be adults and productive citizens. That’s what matters.”
The Lady Tigers will head to Oak Hill Wednesday for another SOC II battle. They will be back home Thursday to face Jackson before going to Eastern on Friday.