Every team wants to be trending in the right direction as the all-important post-season approaches.
For the Waverly Lady Tigers, they roared out of the gate to a 5-0 varsity softball start before dropping back-to-back games to Wheelersburg and Clay. Snapping that skid, they won over Northwest and Valley to move to 7-2. Then came a string of three losses. However, they righted the ship this week with three straight victories.
“We lost three games in the last at-bat. In all three, we had the lead with the chance to win, and we didn’t close the deal. That’s a lesson that we have to figure out before May 10,” said Waverly coach Scott Hayes.
“It will hurt us down the road if we don’t figure out how to close games. It is a character builder. The girls are trying to figure out who they are as a team. It was a tough stretch; and unfortunately, it cost us a high-seed and made things a little tougher on us. Being 11-5 is a lot different seed being than 14-2. That is not how things worked out for us. But the girls found a way to win and bounce back after a tough stretch.”
In Tuesday’s 12-2 win, Waverly squared off with in-county opponent Eastern. The Lady Eagles found themselves in the midst of a strong hitting night for the Lady Tigers, who were breaking out of their slump in a 13-hit night.
“Suzzy Wall has been phenomenal and has been on fire at the plate. I think she had six consecutive hits, and then had three more tonight. She has just been tearing it up,” said Hayes.
“With Emma (Bellaw) and Suzzy, we have a real good 3-4 punch. Zoiee (Smith) has been getting on base a lot. We have a lot of girls who can do damage throughout the lineup. When we get them all swinging the bat the right way at the same time, we are going to score a lot of runs. We can play some pretty good defense most of the time too. Even in the games that we lost, we didn’t make a lot of errors. We just made them at the wrong times. That’s learning how to win.”
At this point in the season, Smith leads the team in batting average (.519), followed closely by Wall (.509) and Bellaw (.468).
The team is leaning on a core group of seniors, including Zoiee Smith, Emma Bellaw, Amelia Willis, Maddy Collett, and Macey Gecowets.
“Our seniors are tremendous. Emma and Zoiee are key players. I’ve not had any outfielders who make it look as effortless as Maddy Collett does. If the ball is hit to left field, we know it is an out. She tracks everything, gets a tremendous jump and read on the ball, throws it to the right spot, has a good arm. She is a comfort to have in left field. We trust out defense,” said Hayes.
“Amelia Willis is a sparkplug. She just wants every ball. At Minford, there was a pop-up on the first base line, and she ran in and caught it from third. Macey’s voice in the outfield and in the dugout, along with her character, make her a leader. Macey doesn’t let anyone slack off. She wants this season to go as long as possible. We are having fun this week for sure.”
After graduating all of the pitchers from the 2019 team, the Lady Tigers knew they would need to find some arms for 2021. Camryn Campbell has taken the starting job, but two other teammates have stepped up to provide innings as well, including Macey Gecowets and Katrina Entler, who just became a pitcher in the off-season.
“Katrina worked all winter and came in every Saturday at 8 a.m. to work on pitching,” said Hayes. “It is nice to see Katrina come in and give us innings. She has really pitched well for us. She doesn’t have to go out and give us seven every game. If she can give us one, two or three innings and give Cam a rest, that helps a ton.”
In Tuesday night’s win over Eastern, Wall finished 3-for-4 from the plate with a double, a triple, one stolen base, a pair of runs and an RBI.
“In my freshman year, I was doing decent hitting, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be,” said Suzzy Wall, a junior for the Lady Tigers. “I play travel ball, so I’ve been hitting all of the time. Since I don’t play any other sports, the offseason is big for me as far as playing and getting ready.”
According to Coach Hayes, Collett has gotten much better at the plate this year, hitting around .350.
Both Wall and Collett gave props to Assistant Coach Kanawha Thornsberry for tweaking their approach at the plate.
“Kanawha fixed my swing a little bit. I was in a slump for a few games. He tweaked it with a little bit of my load,” said Wall. “I like to get out ahead of balls. He slowed that down a little bit to keep my eyes level.”
“Kanawha fixed my swing too,” said Collett. “All through high school, I haven’t been a big hitter. In the past few games, I’ve been getting on base more. It has really helped.”
Both players emphasized pushing through the losing streak and know they must continue to work to make the season last as long as possible, especially after not having a high school season in 2020.
“This season means everything to me,” said Collett. “We lost a good group of seniors from last year. They were true parts of our team with a lot of starters. We knew we had freshmen coming up who were pretty solid. They play a big role in starting positions for us.”
Wall added, “We are proud of everyone, especially the freshmen who have taken on big roles. We moved some positions around recently and everyone has taken to that well. It means everything to me that everyone gives their all every game.”
Hayes wants his team to have as many opportunities to play as possible, but in some years, the weather doesn’t cooperate.
“We had almost all of our non-league games get cancelled for weather or league games being re-scheduled. The weather has affected everybody,” said Hayes. “I want the girls to have fun and enjoy it. Time is running out on the season.”
Now that success has been re-discovered, the goal is to continue it.
“We took off strong for the season,” said Wall. “We were on a little losing streak. We just needed to get out of it. Now we are back on track.”