Friday, March 7, 2014
The Green Wave softball team enters the season ranked as the top Class AAAA team in the state in at least one poll.
Summerville is No. 1 in the SCVarsity.com 4-A preseason poll. Mauldin, Byrnes, Blythewood and Boiling Springs round out the Top 5. Ashley Ridge and Bluffton, which along with Summerville belong to Region 8-AAAA, are also in the Top 10.
“We can get better both offensively and defensively, but in practice so far we have looked pretty good swinging the bats and in the field,” Green Wave coach Heather Tucker said. “We only lost one senior so on paper we look good, but each season is different. Last year we had a lull in the middle of the season and things weren’t looking that good but we were able to turn it back on and started playing well again.”
Summerville returns all-state shortstop Sarah Windham plus all-region selections Taylor Wuerfel, Taylor Powell and Summer Jenkins from a team that finished last season at 26-9 and as the 4-A state runner-up.
After beating Bluffton in the Lower State championship series, Summerville dropped two straight games to Boiling Springs in the state championship series.
Wuerfel, one of four seniors on the team, and Jenkins, a sophomore, will again split time in the circle.
“I feel comfortable with either of them pitching,” Tucker said. “They are very different. Taylor is a lefty and Summer is a righty. One throws harder while the other has better spin on the ball. I think we will be able to utilize them depending on our competition and when we switch pitchers out our opponents will face a totally different style.”
Senior Taylor Knight returns at first base and senior Hannah Horton returns at third base. The other senior is Powell, who returns to anchor the outfield.
Brittany Olean, Dani Halajcsik and Anna Gluhosky also return with outfield experience. Taylor Belfiore returns as catcher while Lauren Keefer, Gluhosky and Jenkins also return with infield experience.
“I’ve coached this group for a while and they seem to have a unique chemistry,” Tucker said. “We went through some things last year but I think we have gotten over that and matured as a team.”
Some of the returners, however, are being pushed by three new members of the team.
Sophomores Lauren Saunders and Bradie Rossa are vying for time in the infield. Junior Victoria Norris is vying for time in the outfield.
“Saunders is very quick and reacts well to the ball which is why she may see some time at third,” Tucker said. “Rossa has a nice swing and defensively is very versatile. Norris may pinch hit and play some outfield.”
Windham was Summerville’s top hitter last season, finishing with a .417 batting average, 29 RBIs and 36 runs scored. Powell finished with a .407 average, 16 RBIs and 21 runs. They both had 48 hits. Wuerfel, Jenkins and Belfiore all had more than 30 hits last season.
“We have some kids who hit with power, some other kids who are good contact hitters and some kids who slap well,” Tucker said. “Sarah is hitting the ball solid and has a lot of power and Taylor Belfiore has a ton of power.”
Things have gone well for Summerville this preseason. The Green Wave went 5-0 last weekend to win the Bishop Blast Tournament that featured 20 teams. Summerville beat Timberland 16-2, Beaufort 9-2, Cane Bay 9-0 and Carolina Forest 7-0 before earning an 8-7 win over Bluffton in the championship game.
“The championship game was a back and forth battle,” Tucker said. “We were down 7-5 going into the top of the seventh but ended up scoring 3 runs and then went out and played defense in the bottom of the inning.”
Wuerfel was named the tournament MVP and Windham and Jenkins also made the all-tournament team. Summerville had eight homeruns during the tournament.
The team has big aspirations this season, but will face some tough competition.
“Our goals are the same as they are every year,” Tucker said. “We always want to play at the highest level and make a deep run in the playoffs. However, Bluffton has a ton of kids returning. Beaufort is good.
“Ashley Ridge and Fort Dorchester are rivals so we expect a battle when we face them. I’m glad our region has become so strong because if you play tough teams during the season it prepares you for the playoffs.”