Sunday, 12 May 2019 19:24

JV Lady Raider Softball Season Recap: 'Improvement' the biggest takeaway for Campolieta

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The JV Lady Raider softball team overcame a slow start to win six of its final 10 games in 2019. The JV Lady Raider softball team overcame a slow start to win six of its final 10 games in 2019. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — What was a slow start for the Richmond Senior High School junior varsity softball team turned out to be an overall success according to head coach Casey Campolieta.

The Lady Raiders began the 2019 campaign by losing their first five games, but bounced back to with six of their final 10 games to finish with a 6-9 overall record. A big part of the turnaround was the addition of sophomore pitcher Kearston Bruce, along with the team’s development over the course of the season.

Bruce, who joined the team after a stint with the varsity squad, came in and pitched every inning for the Lady Raiders from the sixth game on. She racked up six wins and struck out 106 batters (10.6 per game).

“We started out a little rocky, and had to learn fundamentals and how to work as a team,” Campolieta said. “I honestly think that losing a few games at the beginning helped them. I know that sounds a little odd, but it showed them that they must work together to win.

“They had to depend on each other and hold each other accountable,” she added. “When they won the first game, I think it was like a light bulb came on and they realized that they could really do this if they stay determined and focused.”

That first win came in the second game against Jack Britt High School on March 22, a 9-7 decision. A few nights after dropping the opener, freshman first baseman Taylor Young had a big night, going 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. It was Bruce’s second game in the circle, and recorded 10 punchouts.

“The defining moment this season was when Kearston joined us and it was our first game with her against Jack Britt,” Campolieta saind. “I think the girls kind of slacked up some because they put it all on Kearston to win the game, and they thought just her pitching would win them the game.

“That’s when their mind set changed because we lost and had to play them at home the same week,” she added. “It was like they realized she couldn’t do it alone and they chose to have her back and each other’s and work as a team.”

The Lady Raiders would split their series with Jack Britt, Hoke County, and Lumberton high schools, all Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents. To end the season, Richmond went on a three-game winning streak, defeating non-conference Anson High School, while sweeping rival Scotland High School.

During that stretch, the Lady Raiders outscored Anson and Scotland 55-4.

While the wins were nice, and the last-season push made up for some hiccups early on, Campolieta was most impressed with each of her players’ individual development with the game.

“The biggest takeaway was seeing how much they improved,” the second-year head coach said. “Each girl improved so much throughout the season, even my returners.

“I think the fact that in the beginning of the season when we were getting run-ruled in some games to having won games where we were the team doing the run-ruling has a lot to say for a team in one season,” Campolieta added. “That really goes to show that hard work in practice pays off.

The JV Lady Raiders were comprised of a few returners, but saw a lot of new faces this season. Bruce took over the role as the team’s pitcher in her second season, while sophomore catcher Georgia Grace Anderson did all the work behind the plate.

Sophomore Shyann Byrd, who played third base, was another returner who saw regular playing time this season. The work of Young, freshman second baseman Hayley McCormick and freshman shortstop Kierston Gibson made up the rest of the infield.

Two other freshman, Kassie Smith and Marley Moss, made up two-thirds of the outfield. Sophomore Darice Martin was the starting left fielder. For Campolieta, “everyone stepped up at the right time.”

Young was the leadoff and “seemed to always find a way on base” to get innings started. Bruce “helped the team all-around,” starting with pitching, but also hit in the four spot every game.

Campolieta added that Anderson “was a big leader and had a lot of key hits that scored big runs.” Byrd and Gibson “made great plays” on the left side of the infield and “always hustled.”

McCormick was credited by her head coach for “starting out pitching and getting us through some tough games.” She ended up finding herself at second and made some good plays, while she and Moss “also started hitting the ball mid-season and stayed hot until the end.”

From the outfield, Smith and Martin “showed off their arm strength” to help make plays. With the 2019 season in the books, Campolieta is already looking toward next year.

“As far as expectations go, I’d say next year I definitely want to improve our team’s record and I think that starts with each girl finding that team chemistry in the beginning before the first game,” she concluded.

“I know that can be challenging, but once we had that this season, you couldn’t tell us anything.”

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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