Lady Knights give a new look

Published 10:39pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Suffolk Christian Academy softball team enters the 2014 season with a significant boost in experience on this roster that gives hope for improvement on last year’s return for the program.

Suffolk Christian Academy sophomore Brianna Farrenkopf will take over as starting pitcher this season.
Suffolk Christian Academy sophomore Brianna Farrenkopf will take over as starting pitcher this season.

After being absent from the school’s sports offerings, softball was brought back last year when enough interest had developed again. The Lady Knights struggled, going 0-11, but head coach Robert Lester invested time developing a core group of players.

“We still pretty much kept that intact,” he said, as six girls return from last season’s team.

Helping Lester teach the largely inexperienced players were his team captains, Hannah Fagan, Caitlin Hankins and Kelly Lester.

Fagan, last year’s starting pitcher who is now a senior, will not be back as she has opted to take advantage of employment opportunities.

But Hankins, a senior, and Lester, a junior, will join the team this year, which includes three players who play for travel ball teams.

Suffolk Christian will still field a young team, however.

“This year, we’re pretty much kind of spread out from seventh grade to 12th grade,” Lester said. “I would say the largest class would be freshmen,” which includes five players.

In addition to SCA students, home school students also help make up the Lady Knights’ roster.

Hankins will help lead the team, playing catcher, first base and also spending some time in the circle. Kelly Lester will play third base and second base.

The primary replacement for Fagan at pitcher looks to be sophomore Brianna Farrenkopf.

“She’s my starting pitcher, but it’s not all on her shoulders,” Lester said, noting he has three other girls who can pitch. “It’s a little bit more of a luxury than we had last year.”

Suffolk Christian Academy freshman Kaleigh McLeod takes a swing during Tuesday’s practice. She will lend her travel ball experience to the Lady Knights’ efforts this season.
Suffolk Christian Academy freshman Kaleigh McLeod takes a swing during Tuesday’s practice. She will lend her travel ball experience to the Lady Knights’ efforts this season.

Freshman Kaleigh McLeod has gained travel ball experience with the Virginia Legends. She will mostly play catcher for the Lady Knights, but Lester also described her as a utility player.

Marlee Lynn is a freshman armed with experience from Galaxy Fastpitch Softball.

“She’ll be our primary shortstop as of right now,” Lester said.

Seventh-grader Penelope Franklin also carries Galaxy experience and is versatile.

“She’s another one of our pitchers, and she covers anywhere I ask her to as of right now,” the coach said.

He was encouraged by the increased experience he saw in his players.

“They’re young, but they do have a whole lot more playing time than the girls we had last year,” Lester said.

While his goal last year was to compete and show that the players were learning, Lester wants to take things to another level in 2014.

“I’ve set our goal this year to go .500 as a team, to try to win at least half of our games,” he said.

Lester highlighted his established players for reaching out to let the home-schooled girls know they are part of the team.

Lester said one of their biggest challenges will be taking on older competition. The key, he said, is “just not getting discouraged when you go out there against somebody that’s a lot taller, a lot bigger than you.”

He hopes his team will realize it can compete.

Some skilled opponents are present on the schedule, including Peninsula Catholic High School and Greenbrier Christian Academy.

At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, the Lady Knights will play host to Peninsula Catholic on their new home field located at the corner of Pruden Boulevard and King’s Fork Road.

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