Sting fastpitch softball team fields Suffolk prospects

Published 8:42 pm Thursday, October 10, 2013

A new fall season kicked off for the 18U Sting Fastpitch Gold team in September, and this time the squad features a roster with more Suffolk talent, as well as players from a variety of other locations.

Seniors Maddy-Grace Lavender and Brianna Cochran, junior Emily Carson and sophomore Maddie McGrath all come to the Sting by way of Nansemond River High School.

“We didn’t specifically target Nansemond River, but it just so happened a fair amount of their leadership and talent came to Sting,” 18U Gold head coach Scott Haley said.

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He highlighted the unique make-up of the team.

“Last year, the team had nine seniors; this year’s team we only have six, and we’re carrying 18 girls,” he said.

The team, which practices in Suffolk, also includes players from Newport News, Smithfield, Southampton, Williamsburg and one from Knoxville, Tenn., who commutes to meet the team on weekends.

Sting is popular to players for a couple of reasons, especially its success in sending players to college, including Suffolk stars like Megan Blythe and Eryn Haley.

Last year alone, three players went to Division I schools, four to Division II and one to junior college.

Haley also mentioned the discipline and the positive tone he and the other coaches establish with the girls.

Brianna Cochran, an outfielder with the team, spoke to this when describing her time with the Sting. “It’s a great atmosphere, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said.

Haley’s goals are to develop the girls’ ability as softball players and give them opportunities to shine in front of college coaches, and Lavender and Cochran are entering primetime for this agenda.

In her second year with the Sting, Haley said, “Maddy-Grace comes back with an ability now as a senior to potentially take it to the next level.”

Haley said she is hitting fairly well. She is currently still playing volleyball for the Lady Warriors, and Haley expects her batting average to rise even more once she can join the team full time.

Cochran also aims to play at the college level. Haley said, “She’s got a very strong arm, she’s got a fair amount of speed,” and he said she’s provided the crucial hit when it was needed and started a lot of rallies for the team.

“The system that they have worked out is amazing,” Cochran said of the Sting.

Now that senior Megan Thursby has verbally committed to join Eryn Haley at New Mexico Highlands University, it has given Emily Carson more time at the catcher position with some of the other girls.

“Megan’s kind of been like an older sister to us, because she’s already been through everything,” Carson said.

“Emily is a very good catcher,” Haley said, also praising her hitting skills when the game is on the line. “I would have to describe her as clutch.”

She said, “I just hope to have a really great time with this group of girls — it seems to be a great group — and to hopefully get signed.”

Maddie McGrath has already made a big impact as a sophomore.

“She’s secured a lot of showcase time at shortstop,” Haley said. “She’s hit very well in front of the colleges.”

McGrath said, “I feel good about my defensive performance. I’m working on hitting now.”

She has a couple years to work on it, but already, Haley said, “She is a very scrappy ball player. She’ll do anything she can to make a play to help the team. That’s really neat to see out of a young lady like that, because a lot of times they come in and feel a little intimidated. Not Maddie.”

The 18U Gold team will be in a Roanoke tournament this weekend.