Clover softball finally had its day in the sun last season.
After being so close in previous years, the Blue Eagles finally broke through in 2015, going through Northwestern in the Upper State finals and taking down Summerville in the title series to claim the program’s first state championship.
Coach Shea Hall, now entering her 15 year at the Blue Eagles’ helm, hopes that her players enjoyed the taste of that success.
“We’re not stressing, and talking every day about repeating or doing anything different than we’ve always done,” she said.
The Blue Eagles return key pieces all over the field that could make them a contender again this spring, despite losing several players from last year’s team that were Herald All-Area selections.
In the infield, Clover has just one returning starter in senior Shania Domingue, who will play at third, but will also get junior Katie Robinson back at first after battling an ankle injury much of last season. She was a huge boost to the team when she returned for the postseason and should be one of the top bats in the area this year.
Junior Kayla Ogle will take over in the circle for Clover after getting limited time last year behind All-Region selection Elizabeth Edmunds. Hall said that Ogle has has a good preseason and knows how to “throw strikes and let her defense play.” She’ll be hurling to junior catcher Taylor Stewart, who played on the same travel team with Ogle and the two have a good relationship, according to Hall.
“They’ve been teammates for two years, so they’re definitely comfortable with each other,” Hall said.
Clover also has one returning starter in the outfield in junior Michah Sherwood in center field, who will lead some new faces in the grass. Hall said that some girls have been “patiently waiting their turn” and that she’s “excited to see them out there.”
Hall also feels that her team has been aggressive at the plate so far in the preseason, and she likes the fact that her team is usually ready to hit. That said, she knows that the backbone of her team is going be the defense, but hopes that the team can put up some good offensive numbers as well.
She mentioned that Robinson and Stewart are a pair that are swinging well so far, and Sherwood is getting on base with slap bunts.
“Hopefully we can be strong one through nine. I think that was a key to our success last year,” Hall said.
As for Region 3-AAAA, the competition seems strong throughout the field of teams, but Hall thinks her team is ready to face the challenge.
“I like our chances,” she said.
“I like for us to be in the mix. I do think our region is still going to be very compeitive. We’ve just got to be ready to play every day.”
Region 3-4A, Region 3-3A outlook
Northwestern is coping with the loss of the best player in its program history, All-State and 4A statewide player of the year Kori Wancheck. But the Trojans return some pop in their lineup in catcher Rachel Marion. Nation Ford and Fort Mill should challenge Northwestern and Clover for the Region 3-4A title, with the Falcons losing just one senior from last year to graduation and Fort Mill returning eight players from last year’s team that made it to the Upper State championship bracket.
Both Lancaster and South Pointe are looking to make strong showings in Region-3A. South Pointe is building off its first ever playoff win in its 11-year history. This spring, the Stallions have their sights set on the program’s first winning season. Although Lancaster may be young, look for them to make strong competition this year. The Bruins return three All-Region selections from last year, all of which were underclassmen.
- Reid Williams
Players to watch
Katie Robinson, Clover- Jr. DP - Robinson was dinged up last season but has come through with big hits throughout her career as a Blue Eagle. She’ll be counted on as a leader after the graduation of so much 2015 talent.
Bella Roy, Fort Mill- Soph. P- Roy has already broken the Fort Mill softball strikeout record. She made the High School Sports Report and South Carolina Coaches Association of Women’s Sports All-State teams last spring after striking out 216 batters in 143 innings. Roy, an All-Region 3-4A choice, was 12-9 with a 1.62 ERA. She walked just 47 of the 564 batters she faced.
Lauren Collie, Fort Mill- Soph. C- Another youthful talent on the Fort Mill squad. On top of being a brick wall behind the plate, Collie batted .409 with 21 RBIs last season, earning her All-Region 3-4A and 4A All-State honors.
Ariana Ealy, Lancaster-Jr. 1B/P- a consistent bat last season in the Lancaster team that reached the 3A Upper State championship series. The All-Region pick hit .333 with two home runs and 22 RBIs last season.
Jada Ames, Lancaster- Jr. OF/IF- another All-Region pick off the Bruin’s squad from last season. Ames led the Bruins in home runs (three) and RBI (33) last season.
Chloe Thomas, Lewisville- Soph. P- Despite being just a freshman, Thomas earned Region 3-A player of the year and All-State honors in 2015, batting .512 with 36 RBIs, while also pitching 97 innings. She struck out 99 batters with just 14 walks and a 1.44 ERA. Expect a big sophomore campaign from Thomas.
Darby Trull, Nation Ford- Soph. CF- The junior Virginia Tech commit provided a solid bat and consistent playmaking glove to the Falcon lineup, batting .460 added with a .997 fielding percentage.
Chanel Turner, Nation Ford- Another talented sophomore at Nation Ford, Turner, a shortstop, also made All-Region after hitting .460 with 22 RBIs. These efforts earned her All- Region 3-4A honors last season.
Rachel Marion, Northwestern- Sr. C- Marion will anchor the Trojans’ batting order this year. The All-State and All-Region 3-4A pick hit .483 with seven home runs and 34 last year.
Jamie Rankin, South Pointe- Sr. P- With an offer from Columbia College on the the table, Rankin is the leader of this year’s Stallion squad. Rankin batted .400 last season. Rankin was more often than not on the mound for the Stallions, totaling 109 innings while striking out 47 batters.