Two-time state champs will have youthful look
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 10, 2009 1:47 PM
The best year yet?
Are you kidding?
Despite losing two all-state performers off back-to-back state championship teams, Wayne Christian softball coach Roger Longwell says he will put his youngest -- but maybe his best -- team on the diamond this spring.
Come on, coach.
Has the sting from hitting fungoes gone a little further north than expected?
"I just see a young team wanting to get better," said the confident Longwell. "(And) the way I coach this year will be totally different from last year."
Longwell can't rely on record-setting hurler Traci Davis, who graduated. He can no longer expect the Eagles to get a one- or two-run advantage and depend on Davis -- a hard-throwing and crafty right-hander -- to shut the door on opposing teams.
Defensive mistakes must be minimal.
And Wayne Christian must play offense at its maximum level. Whenever it puts a runner on base, it needs to manufacture the run and put further pressure on the opponent.
"I believe we will still be as good at the plate, if not better, than last year," said Longwell. "I don't have the depth in pitching as I did last year, but Allyson (Newsome) has a strong arm and a heart of gold. She will only get better as the weeks go by.
"I look for her to dominate as enter the postseason."
Newsome transferred from Eastern Wayne. Longwell expects her to fill the void left by Davis and Cynthia Burroughs, who transferred to Charles B. Aycock.
With no seniors on the roster, the leadership role might fall on the capable of shoulders of Sarah McCollum. The first baseman blossomed during her freshman season and crushed a key home run during the Eagles' first state-title charge.
Also back are sophomores Reagan Hinton and Kayla Kennedy. Each is a capable fielder and adept at knocking the ball around the park. Two ninth-graders return -- outfielder Courtney Barrow and shortstop Carly Hightower.
Hightower denied archrival Cape Fear Christian of a game-winning hit last season. Barrow will handle the catching duties since Brittany Sullivan graduated.
Britney O'Hara, who played on the Eagles' 2007 championship team, returns after a year layoff. Longwell will also look for contributions from eighth-graders Maggey Taylor and Blake Govan.
"Both of these girls have improved their game," said Longwell, who returns seven players off last year's squad. "Both played outfield and made some pretty big plays down the stretch in last year's championship run. I expect more at the plate and on the field from both of these girls."
Longwell has added two ninth-graders, one eighth-grader and one seventh-grader to the roster. None have experience on the high school level.
Wayne Christian launches its 2009 season today at Carolina Christian 1-A Conference rival Crossroads Christian. The Eagles will play five consecutive road contests before their home opener March 20 against Kerr-Vance Academy.
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