Prep softball: Burdette, Black Eagles anxious for season to begin
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Coach Bobby Catlett and the Black Eagles softball team couldn't be more excited and anxious for the season to begin.
That's because South Charleston returns Alli Burdette, one of the state's best players.
As a junior last season, Burdette was named All-Kanawha Valley Player of the Year after leading the area with 256 strikeouts - almost 100 strikeouts ahead of Herbert Hoover's Allison Rager (163). Burdette also led the Valley with a 0.78 earned run average.
"It's great to have the player of the year back," Catlett said. "She led the area in strikeouts and nobody was even close. She is a tough one to face and I'm glad she is on the mound for me. It's an added bonus that she was the batting average leader (.397) on the team.
"She's got about all of the pitches. She can throw a fastball, changeup, curve, screw, drop, and rise. She has already signed and committed to play at Division I Elon in North Carolina. They are getting a good one."
South Charleston also welcomes back three starters in senior outfielders Meredith Cain and Kayli Hudson, and junior catcher Mckenzie Catlett - the coach's daughter.
"It's great to have them back," Catlett said. "We expect to get good leadership from them and guide the young players in the right direction. Mckenzie is solid behind the plate and has a good bond together with Alli. Cain will get us some runs across and Hudson is always in the right spot."
Catlett expects big things as well from junior left fielder Kaylee Stanley, senior designated hitter Aaliyan Phillips and sophomore first baseman Jazmine Martin.
The Black Eagles also bring in a solid freshman class to the mix. Nine rookies enter the program, including Madison Pauley, Emily Bostic, Amanda McDonald, Bailey Bennett, Emily Givens and Olivia Orcutt
Winfield - Coach Kelly Montgomery gets her first coaching job this season for the Generals, but brings an extensive background in the sport to the program.
Montgomery played at Ripley (1994-98) and at the University of Charleston.
Winfield welcomes back several key players, most of which are underclassman.
Winfield's top two returning hitters are sophomores after enjoying solid seasons as freshmen.
"As a coach, you always want to build for the future," Montgomery said. "We have some younger players but they are very talented. We are looking for good things for the future."
Sophomores Kenna Markham (.417) and Katie Legg (.397) return to lead the Generals.
"Kenna will be my first baseman and play center field," Montgomery said. "She played first base most of the time but tends to play center field in travel ball. That gives me some good options. Her bat is always solid.
"Legg is a great outfielder but is transitioning to first base for us this season. We are going with a new approach to some things. Her bat is always hot. She's a slugger."
Winfield doesn't have a lot of upperclassmen on the team, but a couple that do return are junior Ally Funk (.356 batting average) and senior pitcher Taylor Raines (0.79 earned run average).
"Funk is so flexible for us," Montgomery said. "She can play shortstop or outfield, or just about any position. She is so quick. Taylor is our only senior, and brings a lot of leadership and experience to the team. That's key for a pitcher."
Montgomery is also very excited about freshman pitcher Abbie Short, along with fellow freshman Mallory Litton and sophomore Natalie Miskosky.
Riverside - Senior pitcher Sara Winter made the second team All-Kanawha Valley team last season after compiling a 12-6 record with 87 strikeouts, and will be relied upon heavily by Warriors Coach Mike Taylor.
"We feel real good with Sara in the circle every game," Taylor said.
"She had six shutouts last season and doesn't give up a lot of runs. As a coach, you always look forward to that. She has gotten better and better each year, and is getting looks from colleges."
While Riverside returns its top pitcher in Winter, the Warriors also welcome back one of their top hitters in junior infielder Felicia Burton, who was one of the area leaders with eight doubles and 16 stolen bases last season.
Nine of the Warriors 19 players are freshmen, but Taylor, in his fifth year leading the program, believes the incoming group is the best he has had.
Seniors Kaylee Wolfe and Destini Daegert will also be counted on heavily as Riverside will be looking to win its third straight sectional championship.
George Washington - The Patriots should put plenty of runs on the scoreboard this year, as Coach Bill Gerwig's team brings back plenty of offensive firepower.
Junior catcher Bailey Rabel is the team's leading returning hitter back with a .422 batting average to go along with 20 runs batted in and 11 doubles.
Junior outfielder Jessi Thevenin, a second team All-Kanawha Valley selection last year, returns after batting .397. Senior standout athlete Rachel Ward is back as well after a solid year that saw her hit .384. The Patrios shortstop was the All-Kanawha Valley Player of the Year in basketball.
Capital - Coach Morgan Hedrick has the enviable task of trying to replace graduated Sarah Pittman.
Pittman, a catcher, was named to the All-Kanawha Valley second team after hitting .452 last season and six doubles.
Nitro - Coach Joyce Midkiff will be expecting big things out of Katee Jones for the Wildcats.