Smooth Sailing

Porter Ridge softball team still undefeated through 12 games

by Aaron Garcia

Porter Ridge senior captains (from left) Lexi Davis, Haley Secrest, Whitney Haywood and Courtney Price have helped the Pirates softball team surge to a 12-0 record this season.

It would’ve been understandable – heck, even likely – to see the Porter Ridge High School softball team take a step backward after last year’s edition posted a 24-2 overall mark and advanced all the way to the Class 4A Western Regional semifinals before falling to Alexander Central. That kind of success, after all, is not easy to duplicate.

Instead, the Pirates were 12-0 overall and 2-0 in league play headed into their March 27 matchup against Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference foe Anson and again appear to be a contender for the Class 4A state title.

This season, the Pirates have downed county rivals Weddington, Piedmont, Cuthbertson and Marvin Ridge, as well as Charlotte powers Hickory Grove, Butler, Independence and Ardrey Kell, all of which appear to be teams capable of lengthy playoff runs of their own this season.

“This is what we’ve been working toward (since last year),” said Pirates pitcher Lexi Davis. “We wanted to come out with intensity this year and always try to jump on the other teams quickly.”

And so far, they have. The Pirates have been a battery of offense in their 12 wins, in which they’ve averaged seven runs per game and have reached double digits five times. Courtney Price has led the way at the plate with a .538 batting average, followed by Kayleigh Jonas (.517) and Davis (.500). Davis leads the club in home runs (seven) and RBIs (24), while Price has swiped 18 bases.

The Pirates aren’t simply outscoring their opponents, however. Davis, an Auburn University signee, has recorded all 12 wins in the pitcher’s circle and had allowed just one earned run out of the 274 batters she’s faced (with 98 strikeouts, seven shutouts and one no-hitter) for a .092 ERA.

Through their first 12 games, the Pirates have a better record than last year, when they dropped the third game of the season to Ardrey Kell.

Pirates coach Lael Rorie said her team still has plenty to learn, despite the unblemished record.

“I think everybody would like to be (undefeated) at this point, but I just want them to continue to get better and learn from every game and every experience,” Rorie said. “Hopefully we’ll just continue to get better.”

One area, in particular, in which Rorie wants to see improvement is her team’s attitude – she wants her players “meaner.”

“I want to see more fight in them – to see that look in their eyes, get them a little madder, a little meaner because they’re a little too friendly out there,” Rorie said. “I’m trying to get that meanness into them a little bit.”

Rorie received an encouraging sign when the Pirates gutted out a last-inning, 1-0 win over Marvin Ridge on March 23 to improve to 12-0. It was the Pirates’ closest win since a 3-0 victory over Central Cabarrus on March 15.

“(The win over Marvin Ridge) is going to make us a stronger team because we know everyone is going to give us their best,” said senior Haley Secrest. “It’s going to make us mentally stronger and mentally tougher that we can’t come out here thinking we’re going to win everything. We know teams can come out and beat us, which is going to make us work harder to get better.”

Added Davis: “I think that kind of woke us up, and we realized we need to come out that way every single game and not just expect a 10-0 victory.”

Senior captain and third baseman Whitney Haywood said she was encouraged by the way the team fought off Marvin Ridge for the win, especially when it became clear the Pirates weren’t going to enjoy the wide margin of victory they’ve grown accustomed to this season.

“If we play our best, we can definitely beat any team, but our minds have to be strong,” Haywood said.

That mental strength should come in handy over the next week, as the Pirates travel to Parkwood on Friday, March 30 before visiting Cuthbertson on Monday, April 2. Porter Ridge then returns home to face Sun Valley on Tuesday, April 3 before hosting Weddington on Thursday, April 5.

“We work a lot on the mental aspect of the game,” said Rorie. “Hopefully, they’ll continue with that.”

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