Lady Saints looking to wear the crown

Published 9:50 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

Last spring, with a team made up largely of freshmen and sophomores, Nansemond-Suffolk’s softball team reached the state tournament and finished with a 13-7 record. With that leading into this season, the Lady Saints have reason to set high goals.

For every team in the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools not named Greenbrier Christian though, the goal is always clear and a big one.

“Our goal is to win the TCIS and beat Greenbrier Christian,” NSA head coach Kim Aston.

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The Lady Gators are the perennial powerhouse in the conference and always one of the favorites to win the state title. Greenbrier Christian defeated NSA twice last season, 7-0 in the regular season and 4-3 in the final of the TCIS Tournament.

“Of course Greenbrier’s brought in four new players and a new pitcher,” Aston said, “and beating them is always going to be tough, but we feel we have a team that can beat them.”

High school softball teams are fortunate to have one outstanding pitcher. Aston and the Lady Saints have two ace-level pitchers in junior Kelsey Ritter and sophomore Morgan Daughtry.

Ritter’s been an all-conference and all-state honoree each of the last two seasons as NSA’s top pitcher. As last year went along though, Daughtry saw plenty of time in the circle in important games as well.

“Morgan will get to pitch a little more. She pitches on her travel team while Kelsey doesn’t pitch on her travel team,” Aston said.

When Ritter pitches, Daughtry plays shortstop, and vice-versa when Daughtry is pitching. With sophomore Brooke Starling as NSA’s speedy and productive leadoff hitter last season and Daughtry and Ritter in the third and fourth spots in the order, NSA’s offense, especially from the top of the order, put up big numbers in some games. It’s against tough competition where Aston is looking for more if NSA is to atop the conference or state.

“We have to be more consistent against good pitching and we have to be better with getting baserunners into scoring position,” Aston said.

More youngsters, particularly a group of three players coming up from last year’s JV team, will see important playing time.

“They were as good as some of the players we already had on our (varsity) team,” Aston said.

Eighth-grader Macy Mears played a lot of minutes on NSA’s varsity basketball squad this past season.

“I’m sure Macy will start, it’s just a question of what position. She can play catcher or shortstop or centerfield. We have good players in each of those positions already, but (Mears) will end up somewhere,” Aston said.

While nearly all the Lady Saints on the varsity team play travel ball practically year-around, getting started this preseason as a team has been challenging.

Weather’s been an obstacle. Having NSA’s spring break this upcoming week, a week before the regular season opens, is an obstacle. Even basketball season, with Aston coaching NSA’s varsity squad and a couple players moving from basketball to softball a couple days ago, has been another issue making practice time difficult to find.

Even NSA’s exchange student program with Norway is affecting softball. Ritter left for Norway Thursday and will miss the first few days of the season.

Overall though, Aston is confident about the talent her team has, even if it might take a couple regular season games to experiment with who plays where.