With softball season winding to a close, several Midlands-area teams have good reasons to be confident about their postseason chances.
At the top of the list of positives for teams such as Dutch Fork, White Knoll, Blythewood and Spring Valley is strong pitching.
This year, the area is home to a handful of the states best pitchers, including seniors Savannah Terrapin and Morgan Barker.
White Knolls Terrapin won 12 games as a sophomore, but was sidelined last year due to injuries, and saw limited action in relief late in the season.
So we had big expectations for her this year, and she has met them, coach David Smith said.
As she has faced 218 batters for the season, the Timberwolves have seen how much Terrapin can do for them. She owns a 10-2 record with 39 strikeouts and a 2.27 ERA in 58 innings pitched.
She has pretty much all of her pitches now, its just a matter of working on her control, Smith said.
But Smith said Terrapins tenacity on the mound is as important as her skill.
Once she gets in the circle, shes a competitor. Shes a bulldog on the mound, and we really like our chances when she is on the mound, Smith said.
Terrapin said the competitive nature of pitching in the area is part of what feeds her ferociousness.
Its just my natural personality to want to win, she said. They are all amazing pitchers, and we have a lot of great pitchers in the area. It drives me because I want to be better than them, I want to beat them.
At Spring Valley, its the weight of the final season that drives Morgan Barker.
With it being her senior year, shes definitely got into her mind that this is it and she is putting her heart into every pitch, Vikings coach Maureen McKelvey said of Barker, who is 5-2 this season.
She just has the heart to put it all out there and do the best she can for her senior year, and thats what we need.
But the best are not all on their way out. Dutch Forks ace is junior Hayley Elkins, who has been getting stronger each year since starting as a seventh grader. Undefeated Cardinal Newman pitcher Nicki Regan also is a junior. Blythewoods Katie Chappell is a sophomore.
Hayley on a bad day is going to be better than a lot of pitchers on a great day, Dutch Fork coach Laurie Epps said of Elkins, who is 7-4.
Her speed over the years has increased and shes gotten much better at moving her spots and changing up her speed.
Shes a huge difference-maker for us, Epps said. The biggest thing with Hayley is we know shes going to keep us in games. Its really a matter of us giving her the run support to back her up.
Because when it comes down to it, the pitchers may be the heart of their teams but they are not doing it on their own.
Its an amazing feeling to be a part of the team and to be someone my team can count on, but its great knowing its not just me out there. We all feed off each other, and that makes it even more fun, Terrapin said.