The suddenly surging Spring Valley softball team will find out exactly were it stands over the next few days. The Vikings, who have won seven in a row after getting off to an unsightly 1-6 start, travel to Lancaster tonight and head across town to face Blythewood on Thursday in two key Region 4-4A outings.
Spring Valley, which was once one of the premier programs in the Midlands and in Class 4A in general, is in rebuilding mode this season.
“This was once one of the best programs in the state, and our goal is to get back to that level again,” said second-year SV coach Bob Matz. “We still have a long way to go, but we’re starting to play more consistently and with more confidence.”
As far as Matz can tell, Spring Valley has won 28 region championships in the 30-year history of the program, and hasn’t finished out of first place since 1999. To have a shot at keeping the streak in tact, the Vikings must sweep Lancaster and Blythewood this week. SV beat Lancaster in the first meeting at home, 2-0, last week, but opened the region campaign with a 5-0 loss to the district rival Bengals, who are playing at the 4A level for the first time this season.
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Matz attributed the bad start to poor defense and lack of timely hitting. Both problems have been addressed of late.
“We were averaging something like four or five errors a game early in the season, and you can’t win if you don’t pick up the ball,” he said. “And we couldn’t seem to get the hits when we had runners in scoring position. Our pitching wasn’t the problem. We made some changes that have worked out pretty well so far. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
One defense change that has produced dividends is the move of veteran catcher Kara June to shortstop. Offensively, June, eighth-grader Morgan Barker, freshman Rachel Mellin, senior Brianna McBride and sophomore Mariaha Sanborn have been picking up the pace. June leads the club with a .400 batting average and a .990 OPS, nine runs scored and seven RBI. Barker is hitting .350 with nine RBIs, Mellin is batting .343 with a team-high 11 RBIs, McBride stands at .302 with 12 runs and 10 RBIs and Sanborn has raised her average to .282 with eight runs and 10 RBIs.
Barker and Mellin share the pitching chores. Barker is 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA, while Mellin is 4-4 with a 1.82 ERA.
Ironically, Spring Valley’s winning streak came in placement bracket play at the Lexington Invitational tournament in the wake of a 0-3 pool-play performance.
The turnaround began with a two-hit shutout by Mellin vs. Ridge View. Barker followed with a three-hitter in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Laurens. Eight-grader Amanda Boyd’s RBI single in the seventh inning was the game winner. Mellin then tossed her second straight shutout – a six-hit gem against Lancaster. Sanborn and Boyd had the RBIs vs. the Bruins.
Since then, the SV attack has exploded for 47 runs in wins over South Pointe (11-0), Rick Hill (21-7), Airport (5-0) and Rock Hill again (10-0). Barker tossed back-to-back shutouts vs. South Pointe and Airport, and Mellin blanked Rock Hill on Monday.
The Vikings hung a 10-run inning on South Pointe and an eight spot in the second in the 21-7 win over Rock Hill. McBride’s bases-loaded triple was the highlight in the burst vs. South Point. McBride, June and Mellin all had two-run hits in the Rock Hill eruption. McBride delivered a two-run single in a seven-run, fourth-inning move vs. Rock Hill last night.