With the departure of five senior veterans, things will be very different in 2011 for the Blythewood High softball team.
“It just won’t be realistic for us to produce the offensive numbers we had from those five seniors,” said Bengals coach Bucky Ware.
“But we feel we can get back to "small ball" with a few more slappers and our young players are about equal to where these seniors were athletically a few years ago. Ellen Cordova will have to get better pitching, but if she improves as much next year as she did this year and Katie Chappell continues to grow and improve, we feel our pitchers will keep us in a lot of games. Lori Owens will be in her third year starting on varsity as a freshman next year, and Bailey Newman earned all-region as a catcher throwing out 21 of 35 base stealers this year. Cierra Robinson and Blair Murphy also started some games this year to get some experience, and Jessica Ergle after being limited by an injury early in the season will be playing travel ball this summer and should move into a starting role next year also. “We had some defensive lapses this year, so hopefully that's something that will improve next year also. I look at errors like turnovers in football - that's an area that you can really focus on and even a slight improvement can really affect the won-loss record. “We've already talked individually with our returning varsity players and they understand the expectations at Blythewood. Our seniors created a monster winning five straight region titles, and now it's up to the younger girls to feed that monster. Regardless of the names on the back of the jersey, the name on the front means we expect to win 20 games, compete for the region title, and make the playoffs. We’ll have work harder this off-season than they've ever worked, and we worked pretty hard last year!”
Newman is the only returning all-region pick.
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The Big Five – centerfielder Tiffany Harris, shortstop Paige Hartfield, second baseman Paige Owczarczak, pitcher-first baseman Kelly Owens and third baseman Hillary Stewart – will be missed. All five of the departing seniors earned all-region honors.
Owens, a six-year varsity starter, started her career under Ware at Ridge View. She bowed out by hitting .446 with 41 runs scored, 31 RBI and 20 steals in 22 attempts, while going 16-5 with a 1.28 ERA in the circle.
Harris had the best offensive season of her career - .435, 28 runs, 36 RBIs, 10 2B, 3 HR. Hartfield hit .356 with 40 runs and 20 steals. Stewart batted .535 with 35 runs, 46 RBIs, 95 total bases and team high totals in doubles (18), triples (3) and homers (6). Owczarczak closed with a .404 batting average, 28 runs and 15 RBIs.
Harris (St. Andrews Presbyterian), Paige Hartfield (Winthrop) and Stewart (USC-Aiken) will continue their playing careers at the next level.