High school softball: Hornets want to compete
Published 12:45 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Coach: Scott Cozart (1st year)
Key returners: P Ellen Yang, 1B Carsyn Parrott, C Journie Dawson
Key addition: Freshman SS Mallory Link
Key loss: 3B/1B Kayla Caldwell
2018 record: 4-15 overall, 3-15 Central Carolina Conference (8th place)
Playoffs: Did not make playoffs
2019 record: 1-5 (Lost to 4 CCC teams, lost to East Rowan, beat North Rowan)
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Salisbury’s Scott Cozart might be the first director of network and infrastructure systems to also try his hand at coaching a high school softball team.
Cozart, whose full-time job is at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, has been a travel ball coach for four years. He was asked by his friend, Salisbury principal Luke Brown, to pass on some of his knowledge to the Hornets. He’s taking his best shot.
Coaching softball at Salisbury isn’t like coaching softball at West Rowan, Carson or East Rowan, where many of the girls have played on competitive travel ball teams since they were in grade school. Coaching softball at Salisbury involves more instruction and less strategy.
Cozart has a talented sophomore player in Ellen Yang who has competed in high-profile games at the state, regional and international level (she was a starter for the 2015 Rowan Little League world champs), but there are schools on Salisbury’s schedule that have a whole lineup of Ellen Yangs.
“We’ve got 15 players,” Cozart said. “We’ve got seven with some softball experience, and that’s counting school ball, rec league ball and travel ball. For the rest of our girls, this is a brand new sport.”
The sport is literally brand new to German exchange student Toni Koehler, but she’s having a great time figuring things out. She scored a run on Monday.
The Hornets aren’t going to finish in the top half of the 10-team Central Carolina Conference. Making the 2A playoffs is a long-shot.
But that doesn’t mean the Hornets don’t have goals. They want to go five innings with the teams that battered them in three last year. They want to play seven innings with the teams that 10-run-ruled them in five. They want to beat all the teams they have a chance to beat.
“We want to be competitive,” Cozart summed up. “We’ve got some good athletes from other sports (such as basketball and volleyball), and they’re picking things up pretty quick.”
Yang made the all-county team as a freshman, batting .500. In a win against North Rowan on Monday, she walloped two homers and a triple and drove in eight runs.
In a perfect world, she’d be playing in the infield, but she’s the Hornets’ best pitching option. She struck out seven against North and allowed only one hit.
In a loss last week to Oak Grove, a team that figures to be one of the stronger ones in the CCC, the Hornets only struck out four times and Yang didn’t walk anyone. Progress comes in small steps like that.
Salisbury has an incredibly young team. Eleven players on Cozart’s roster are freshmen or sophomores. First baseman Carsyn Parrott is the only senior. The other players with substantial high school experience are junior third baseman Jaliyah Oats and junior catcher Journie Dawson.
With the exception of Yang, none of the returning Hornets experienced much success last season. The team batted .189 and committed 70 errors in 19 games.
Sophomore Alli Tuck is a returning player who can run. She’s the center fielder and lead-off batter. Sophomore Patricia Garcia gained a lot of experience at second base last season.
Freshman Mallory Link is the shortstop. Cozart is enthusiastic about her athletic ability. He’s also excited about freshman Ella Trainor, who probably will become a starter somewhere.
Junior Caroline Harrill is the starter in right field, while sophomore Marina Mueller and freshman Riley Peltz are candidates for left field.
Also helping out the Hornets are Koehler and freshmen Brielle Long, KT Blackwell and McKiyah Lee.
“We’ve got a lot to learn and we’ll be learning against some good teams,” Cozart said. “But it’s been an enjoyable experience for me, and I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made. We’ve just got to keep our spirits up and keep working.”