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March 13, 2013

Eagles hope experience leads to wins

WAURIKA — Slowpitch softball is a sport that puts a premium on defense and hitting — which makes Ivy Fitzgerald think Waurika could raise a little ruckus in the 2013 season.

“The strategy in slowpitch is to score and to play good defense,” Fitzgerald said, as the Lady Eagles were getting a final polish before opening the campaign Monday by splitting a pair of games with Geronimo, losing 15-1 and winning 15-6.

“I think we’ll be pretty solid on defense, and we’ve had some players who’ve been striking the ball good in practices. We could have a pretty good season.”

Fitzgerald can base some of that optimism on a roster loaded with experienced players. The core from Waurika’s fastpitch team is also playing slowpitch, with the veterans coming off a 18-17-1 fall season that set a program standard for most wins in a single season.

Some of those players find themselves in different positions than they played in fastpitch, but that’s were the defensive strategy comes into play.

Although senior Staci Brandon was a standout shortstop in fastpitch, she’s taking her athleticism to center field for slow pitch. The four-year fastpitch starter joins an outfield that includes junior left fielder Karrington Morris and sophomore rover Kianah Swift.

Morris is WHS’ No. 1 pitcher in fastpitch, but has the athletic skills to be very effective in the outfield, while the youngest of the two Swift sisters also has quickness and experience.

Right field could feature a rotation of sophomore Kylie Richardson, freshmen Kristan Phillips and Sancey Barton, and senior Cara Sampley, who is playing high school ball for the first time.

Moving Brandon to the outfield also allows the Lady Eagles to prepare junior Courtland Henderson to take over Brandon’s spot at shortstop, which will be a key when the fastpitch season arrives.

“Having Staci in the outfield will help us there. She’s got a lot of speed, and it gives Courtland a chance to get some shortstop experience there for fall,” Fitzgerald said. “Having Karrington in left field will also help us.

“Kianah played in the outfield last fall, so I think our outfield will be pretty good.”

Junior Kirstin Berthiaume, who is Waurika’s No. 2 fastpitch pitcher, will spend most of her time at first base in the spring. Fitzgerald hopes freshman Laken Forsyth can handle the bulk of the pitching chores.

The Lady Eagles skipper said summer and fall fastpitch is a motive to keep Morris and Berthiaume at defensive positions in slowpitch.

“Because of the difference in pitching motion, it could create bad habits for fastpitch for Karrington and Kirstin to pitch slowpitch,” Fitzgerald noted. “Laken’s younger and has been practicing (slowpitch delivery), and she’s doing a good job of getting the ball in the strike zone.”

A pair of seniors will start at the other two infield positions. Savanna Mathews became a solid player for the Lady Eagles in the 2012 fall season and will be at second base, while Reyna Swift shifts from behind the plate in the fall to third for slowpitch.

The older Swift sister began her WHS career at third. She moved behind the plate as a sophomore but is going back to third, which will cause less wear on a right knee that was injured in basketball season.

Reyna Swift was the Most Valuable Player in the Southern Eight Conference following the fastpitch season, during which she hit what’s believed to be a program record for home runs in a single season.

With Swift at third, sophomore Megan Waid will draw the catching nod for the slowpitch season.

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