High School Sports

Preview: White Knoll softball

White Knoll softball returned to the 20-win plateau last season, finishing with a 22-7 record. The Timberwolves hope to make the jump back to big-time playoff status this spring after failing to get past the district phase for three straight seasons.

“With eight starters returning, we expect to be very competitive,” said WK coach Joey Lawson, who is 170-69 since starting the program in 2001.

White Knoll’s headliner is slugging junior shortstop Codee Yeske, who is coming off a great sophomore season. Yeske batted .402 with an eye-popping 1.265 OPS, 36 runs scored, 25 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. But the power numbers were Yeskee’s calling card – 19 of her 36 hits were for extra bases (11 doubles, eight home runs). The Timberwolves star set three new single-game, three single-season and three career records last season. The haul included most home runs (2), grand slams (2) and RBIs (9) in a game, most home runs (8), grandslams (2) and steals (27) in a season and most home runs (17), steals (50) and stolen base percentage (94%) in a career.

Junior outfielder Sara Eisenhower, senior pitcher Shelly Jeffcoat, junior first baseman/designated hitter Nicole Stancil, junior outfielder Brittany Williamson, freshman pitcher/ first baseman Kaylin White, senior catcher Emily Kirby and senior third baseman Rhyann Lowery are the other returning starters.

Eisenhower hit .368 with a fine .994 OPS, 12 runs scored, 27 RBIs, nine doubles and 14 walks. Jeffcoat and White will share duty in the pitching circle again. Jeffcoat went 12-6 with a 0.98 EA and 141 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 107 innings, while White was 10-0 with a 1.39 ERA and 62 whiffs in 65 innings. White played regularly at second base when not pitching last season. Stancil sported a .336 batting average a year ago with 17 runs scored. Williamson hit .307 with 21 runs and 18 RBIs. Kirby had a .960 fielding percentage behind the plate and is looking to improve on last season’s .224 batting mark. Lowery is also hoping to be more of an offensive contributor this season.

Freshman Sabrina McCray and sophomore Nicki Merck are in the running for regular outfield time with Eisenhower and Williamson. Senior Sam Mouser, eighth-grader Lydia Trexler-Riser and freshman Hannah Holbrook are all in the mix at the middle infield spots.

White Knoll finds itself in a different region setting this season – the eight-team 5-4A group. Old region foes Lexington, Irmo, North Augusta and Aiken are in the fold, as are newcomers Dutch Fork, Richland Northeast and Orangeburg-Wilkinson. The Timberwolves are out to claim its first region pennant since 2006. North Augusta ruled the old Region 4-4A group for the past two seasons. White Knoll finds itself in the Lower State playoffs for the first time since moving up to the Class 4A level in 2003.

Has a busy first week with region dates against RNE (March 9 at home), North Augusta (March 10 at home) and Dutch Fork (March 12 on the road).