Prep softball: Ferrell settles, Patriots rally past Cougars
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington sophomore pitcher Ali Ferrell hopes what she saw Monday turns out to be a microcosm of the 2013 softball season.
Ferrell gave up five runs early then her team took a short while to regroup and finished with a flourish, pounding out 13 hits to beat rival Capital 10-6 at John Adams Middle School.
"We lost a lot of games early and there for about two weeks we were just practicing in the gym," Ferrell said of the Patriots' 1-6 start under first-year Coach Gwynn Johnson.
"We weren't ready for our first game. Finally we're coming together as a team and all getting used to it, getting back into softball mode and everything," Ferrell said.
Trailing 5-1 in the third inning, the Patriots chased Capital starter Harley Gibson with five successive singles, including a two-run hit from catcher Bailey Rabel, before Jessi Thevenin gave GW the lead for good with a two-run double.
Ferrell, who had settled by the second inning, needed little more help. She struck out seven and retired 14 of 15 Capital hitters from the third to seventh innings before giving up an unearned run in the final frame.
"I think she was a little cold at first, but once she got in the groove she started throwing her pitches and hitting her locations and she was fine after that," said Johnson, a Richwood High School graduate who took over the Patriots program after Bill Gerwig and two other coaches kept it afloat in a turbulent 2012 season.
"After that first inning, she got it down."
The Patriots (5-8) added three more runs in the sixth with RBIs from Rabel, Taylor Casto and Tori Strong, who went 3-for-4 in the win. Ferrell, Casto and Thevenin were 2-for-4 and Rachel Ward was 2-for-3.
"After we got a five-run lead in the first inning I think we got too comfortable," Capital Coach David Holt said. "We started being selective at the plate instead of staying aggressive. On the other hand, they kept being aggressive and it cost us."
Johnson said that an attempt to build the GW softball program into a contender will take time, but added that her own resolve combined with young standouts like Ferrell give her a starting point. The Patriots were forced to cancel three games during spring break because several players left the area for vacations.
"The hardest thing to change about a team is their culture. I haven't been around the past few years, but softball hasn't been the top priority sport for a lot of these girls," Johnson said. "That's something I want to change."
George Washington won its fourth Class AAA volleyball state championship in November, and its girls basketball program missed the State Tournament last season for the first time in three seasons. Its tennis and soccer programs are also among the state's most decorated.
"With the girls we have here now, we have an opportunity to build something," Johnson said.
Like Johnson, Holt has talent on his roster but little tradition on which to build. To him, building a successful program begins with continuity.
"We need to put in more work, and as somebody who wants to do that, I plan on staying with them for years to come," Holt said. "I've got one senior and five freshmen. We're very young. We're basically based on juniors and freshmen.
"I think the reason why they haven't been competitive is that they haven't had a coach to stay around. They've had five coaches in the last four years. You can't build a program that way."
Junior Monet Brown got Capital's big hit in the first, a two-run double that posted the Cougars (2-12) to a 5-0 lead.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.