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Prep Softball: South should be much improved

By Mike London

South Rowan Raiders softball

2016 record: 6-14, did not qualify for 3A state playoffs

League record: 4-14, 9th in 10-team South Piedmont Conference

Coach: Dean Mullinax, whose coaching background is all with boys —  baseball and football — was named as the new coach in July. He’s pushed the girls in the weight room since he got the job and he believes his team has gotten tougher, mentally and physically. Mullinax, who is assisted by Joe Gragg and former Raider Kacie Stamey, is hopeful the Raiders can climb in the SPC standings, but the SPC is  a competitive and deep softball league.

Strengths: Power. South has big sticks, especially third baseman Mataya Reynolds, who has homered in each of the Raiders’ first two games.

Experience: While South only has two seniors, a lot of the juniors have competed in a lot of varsity games. South has both of its all-county honorees back — juniors Riley Corriher and Brooke Lowery —  as well as Jalee Rollins, who did the bulk of the pitching last season.

Athleticism: South will put a number of multi-sport athletes on the field. Corriher, Lowery, Rollins and freshman Whitley Arnott were key contributors to a South team that had a winning basketball season, so they’re just getting into the swing of things in softball.

Versatility: All 12 varsity players are comfortable at two or more positions.

Returning starters:

• Corriher, a junior right fielder, was the team’s leading hitter in 2016, batting .459 with 11 RBIs.

• Lowery, a junior first baseman, batted .382 with 13 RBIs.

• Rollins, another junior, had 36 strikeouts and accounted for five of South’s six wins in the circle.

• Reynolds smacked three homers in 2016 while batting .298 with 17 RBIs, but Mullinax says she has such explosive bat speed that he won’t be surprised if she hits a homer per week this season.

• Senior shortstop Autumn McKeon batted .328 for the Raiders last season.

• Senior catcher Rileigh Ward batted .288 last season. Mullinax will count on Ward for leadership because of the critical defensive position she plays and because she’s been part of the program the longest.

• Sophomore left fielder Anna Blume had 7 RBIs last season and offers power. She had a double on opening day that sent a game with A.L. Brown to extra innings. Mullinax said it missed being a game-winning homer by inches.

• Sophomore Ashlynn Plott batted .256 while starting on the varsity as a freshman and will handle second base,

New faces:  Sophomore Summer McKeon, Autumn’s sister, is expected to start in center field. Arnott has a bright future in the circle and Mullinax expects her to share duties with Rollins.

Quote: “It’s my first time coaching girls, but so far it’s been a blessing,” Mullinax said. “A different kind of blessing, for sure, but definitely a blessing.”

Schedule: South opened with an extra-inning loss to an experienced AL. Brown team, and then pounded Northwest Cabarrus in its first SPC game. A game with West Rowan next Friday will tell the Raiders a lot about how much progress they’ve made.



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