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SEASON PREVIEW: Lady Raiders return 9 players, seek first conference title since 2019

Head coach Mike Way (center) meets with the Lady Raiders between innings during last week's scrimmage. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — When head softball coach Mike Way walks into work each morning, he sees all of the conference championship banners hanging in Richmond Senior High School’s gym.

It’s a reminder of the dominance of the Lady Raider softball program throughout the years, but also one of not earning a title crown since 2019.

With the dawn of a new season less than three days away, the fourth-year head coach believes if the Lady Raiders “play the game the right way,” then a Sandhills Athletic Conference championship can be won.

Richmond returns nine players from a season ago, many of whom were starters that played a part in a collecting a 15-6 overall record and a second-place finish in the SAC standings.

Looking to build off the team’s best finish since Way took over, and make it back to the 4A East postseason, the Lady Raiders will turn to a balance of power hitting and pitching this spring.

One of the returners is senior pitcher Quston Leviner, who’s made that role her starting spot since she was a freshman. One of three returning All-Conference players from last season, Leviner is the No. 1 pitcher on the team. 

As a junior, Leviner led the SAC in wins (14) and finished with 117 strikeouts in 123.2 innings pitched. Recording a 2.32 earned run average, Leviner collected five shutouts and tossed one no-hitter.

She also returns as the team’s leader in batting average from a season ago, swinging the bat at a .397 clip. Leviner had five homers and 22 RBIs.

Losing just two seniors from last year, Kenleigh Frye and Allyiah Swiney, the Lady Raiders welcome back other All-SAC players in senior Makayla Parks and junior Katie Way.

Parks, who will play first base and serve as a secondary pitcher, joins the team for her second season since transferring from Marlboro Academy. She led the team with 27 RBIs as a junior, hit six homers and scored 25 runs.

Shifting over to shortstop this spring, Way is entering her third varsity season. One of four juniors who is a returning starter, Way batted cleanup as a sophomore and collected a .379 average with 22 hits, 15 RBIs and led the team with six doubles.


Opposite of Leviner will be four-year catcher Macy Steen, the team’s third and final senior. Known for her toughness behind the plate and strong arm, Steen’s defensive skills are something she hopes to add to a more productive season at the plate.

During her junior season, Steen batted .276 with 16 hits, 16 RBIs and two home runs.

The Lady Raiders’ other three juniors with significant innings last year are second baseman Ryelan Lyerly, center fielder Addyson Hollingsworth and right fielder Christi Jacobs.

Lyerly will return to her post on the right side of the infield, looking to improve on a sophomore season, her first on varsity, that ended with a .286 average and 13 runs scored. Hollingsworth will play center field this season and is a threat on the basepaths with her speed.

Other expected starters this year are junior left fielder Kady Harris and sophomore third baseman JaKayla Steele. Playing in 11 games as a freshman, Steele recorded two extra-base hits as she and Harris will join the starting lineup fulltime.

In reserve are juniors Erin Fields and Caroline Hunsucker, while sophomore pitcher Maddie Pearson may split time between varsity and junior varsity.

Junior infielder Ryelan Lyerly hustles down to first base during a preseason scrimmage. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond is ready to face another competitive SAC schedule this year, which features three other teams to make the state playoffs in 2022 — Hoke County, Union Pines and reigning conference champion Scotland.

The Lady Raiders split the regular-season series with Scotland, but fell in the SAC tournament championship. Richmond also hopes to surpass its second-round playoff appearance, which ended in an upset to Holly Springs.

The Lady Raiders will begin their season on Wednesday at home against non-conference Porter Ridge High School. Varsity will start at 7 p.m.

SEASON SCHEDULE: Click here for an updated season schedule for the Richmond softball team.

Follow The Richmond Observer on Twitter @ROSports_ for live updates, interviews and more.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.