CARY — St. David’s quickly asserted itself as the dominant team Thursday with a four-run first inning en route to an 18-2 win over Grace Christian, but the Warriors’ season hasn’t been an easy road, said first-year coach Kristen Gabel.
Both teams have spent much of the year working on fundamentals and increasing softball knowledge in inexperienced players.
“We started with players who haven’t had much softball experience and we’ve really put in a lot of work in practice and learning the game, and they’ve really progressed a lot and are just growing from game to game and taking it from there,” Gabel said. “It’s been an interesting start, but it’s been fun because they work hard every day.”
Grace Christian coach Ron Ferrell said the Eagles began the year with just three players with playing experience.
“We’ve got a sixth-grader and a bunch of seventh-graders and two juniors (Hannah Campbell and Devan Ferrell) that have played before that are trying to keep it together,” Ferrell said. “Our head coach had to quit the first day ... and (assistant coach) Ken (Carmack) and I are just trying to keep it going so we didn’t have to cancel the season, and these girls are hanging in there. We’re young and we’re just learning.”
Campbell put the Eagles on the board in the first inning, reaching home on a passed ball, but the Warriors held Grace Christian scoreless until the final inning when a Zoe Missner single brought home Tayler Camplin.
St. David’s mounted a complete team effort with all nine Warriors starters scoring in the win. The Warriors recorded eight hits, led by pitcher Tiffany Bartholomew. The sophomore went 4-4 at the plate, including two in-the-park home runs — one for a grand slam.
“We’ve definitely grown a lot; especially in our knowledge, knowing where the next play is, where to go, listening and communicating with each other,” Gabel said. “Our first game, most of the girls didn’t swing at all and now they’re freely swinging and they have a lot of confidence, so it’s been great.”
The Warriors later mounted a valiant comeback effort against Durham Academy, scoring six runs in the sixth inning before falling 10-9 at the four-team Cary Academy event.
Grace Christian lost all three matchups Thursday.
“We’re playing for next year really,” Ferrell said. “We didn’t want to miss a year, so we’re just trying to do what we can to get the ready for next year, and by the time (Carmack’s) sixth grade daughter (Allie Carmack) is a senior, hopefully she’ll be on a really good team. ... We’re trying to add a rule or two every game. They don’t know the rules. They’ve never played in their lives and they’re having to learn on the field, so they’ve come so far. They’re such a better team now than they were to start with. We’ve got a long way to go, but they’re getting there.”