Dutch Fork looks to continue its recent run of softball success in a new region this season.
In two seasons in Region 4-4A, the Silver Foxes made a surprise run to the Lower State championship tournament finals in 2011 and finished in a three-way tie for the region pennant a year ago.
Coach Laurie Epps, who is 52-48 in four seasons at the DF helm, welcomes back eight starters and has high expectations this spring in a new region. The competition in Region 5-4A figures to be a bit tougher with North Augusta, White Knoll and Lexington on the schedule.
“As in past years, our pitching and defense will keep us in games,” said Epps. “How far we go will depend on our bats.”
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The key player again is junior Hayley Elkins, who has already verbally committed to Charleston Southern. Elkins led the team in hitting and in the circle last season, was named the Region 4-4A player of the year and rated a spot on the all-state team. Eklins went 13-8 with a 2.26 ERA in the circle and batted .475 with four home runs, 24 runs scored and 21 RBI.
Eighth-grade catcher Jenna Elkins, eight-grade second baseman Meghan Murphy, sophomore shortstop Lindsey Mason, junior third baseman Cassidy Piccirillo, senior right fielder Tiffany McRae, sophomore centerfielder Madi Brown and junior left fielder Sarah Hofferth are the other returning starters. Brown was an all-region selection as a seventh-grade rookie.
Hayley Elkins was the winning pitcher and two hits and two RBIs in Dutch Fork’s season-opening 5-1 win over South Aiken on Monday. It was also the Silver Foxes Region 5 debut.
DF travels to face former region rival Blythewood on Thursday.