Chapin returns seven regulars off last season’s 20-4 team that won the Region 4-3A pennant. The idea this time around is to make a bigger postseason impact after a relatively quick 1-2 exit in 2013.
“Even though we return a lot of experience, we’re still a young team that is learning how to win the close games,” said Eagles coach Jason Jolley. “Our pitching, defense and the middle of the batting order should be the strength of our team.”
Indeed, Chapin’s biggest asset and its biggest detriment is youth. There are no seniors on the roster and just four juniors. The rest of the players are sophomores, freshmen or eighth-graders.
The talent is in place for a long playoff run. Is the mental toughness in place to handle the pressure when the stakes are high? That is the fundamental question the Eagles have to answer.
Junior Abby Malcolm and sophomores Lindsay Harris and Brooke Burns are the top returning hands. All three were all-region and all-state picks a year ago, and Malcom, the team’s ace in the circle, was named region player of the year. Harris will again see action at third base and behind the plate. Burns anchors the infield defense at shortstop.
Malcom was 16-3 last season, while Harris (Presbyterian College commit) and Burns (North Carolina commit) were the top bats in 2013.
Juniors Kaylah Mullins, Nicole Smith and Sam Keer and sophomore Olivia Chapman are the other returning starters. Mullins is the No. 2 pitcher. Smith and Kerr return in the outfield. Chapman returns at first base and could catch on occasion.
Impact newcomers include freshmen Hannah Davis (C-3B), Mak Whitman (OF) and Abby Starnes (OF) and eighth-grader Molly Burns (2B).
Chapin opens the regular season on March 11 with a Region 4 game at home against Westwood.