Legion softball: Rowan ready for better weather

Published 12:07 am Sunday, June 23, 2019

By Mike London

GRANITE QUARRY — Rain has been the big winner early in the season, but Rowan County’s Lady Legion softball team hopes to get busier this week, with home dates set for Tuesday against Forsyth County and Thursday against Iredell County.

“Rain has been a really big issue,” Rowan coach Adrian Gantt said. “Fields are wet and softball facilities don’t usually have tarps.”

Rowan was short-handed due to senior beach trips when it dropped an early doubleheader to Union County. Since then, there’s been a string of postponements.

Rowan has 20 games (10 doubleheaders) scheduled.

Rowan plays its home games at the East Rowan High field. The Senior team plays on Tuesdays and Thursdays at  7 p.m., while the Junior team plays Mondays and Wednesdays. The format is a pair of five-inning games with a break in between.

This is the third season of Legion softball. The concept is simple. It’s an opportunity for girls to showcase their talents, while representing their communities.

Rowan played its inaugural season in 2017 at Carson. That was basically an experimental season. Things got started in Burke County. Rowan got in on the ground floor.

North Carolina was the first state to officially sanction Legion softball in 2018.

Like many of its competitors, Rowan has added a Junior Legion team for 2019.

Statewide, Legion softball has swelled from 24 to more than 60 teams (counting Junior and Senior squads)  in the past year, with more counties making plans to join in the future.

“It’s definitely growing,” Gantt said. “There are tons of teams now compared to when we started. It’s not something that interferes with travel ball. It’s something that can complement travel ball. It’s a chance to get a lot of at-bats against quality pitching.”

Rowan’s Senior team includes a wide range of ages. Rowan has girls on the roster as young as rising freshmen and as experienced as rising sophomores at Catawba College.

“That’s a good thing,” Gantt said. “It’s an opportunity for our young players to learn from girls have been in a college program, and it’s an opportunity for the older girls to share and teach.”

Rowan’s players come from a wide range of schools. Aubrey Tuell, who played for Mooresville High, is on the Rowan roster, as is Ali Glover, who played at South Stanly High.

Gantt said there has been quite a bit of player movement, with Iredell releasing several players to Rowan, including Catawba’s I’Yonna Waddell, and Rowan, in turn, releasing several players who expressed a preference to play for Iredell.

Rowan’s team is largely made up of players who attend East Rowan or Carson. Carson’s slugging infielder Kary Hales, a rising junior who made the all-county team, is on the roster, as are recent East graduates Maddie Trexler and Mackenzie Sprinkle, the Mustangs’ top players this season.

“Kary will be a No. 3 or 4 hitter for us,” Gantt said. “Sprinkle brings a vocal component for us and is a good leader, while Maddie is a skilled slapper and gives us some speed.”

Gantt also has been impressed with Ellen Yang, McKenzie “Mac” Misenheimer and Karsen Simpson, to name just a few.

“Ellen never says a word, but she plays hard at third base or in the outfield,” Gantt said. “Misenheimer is unorthodox at second base, but she’s a hustler and she always finds a way to get it done. Simpson has got  a whole lot of velocity for such a young player. She’s going to be someone to watch in the county for years to come.”

In addition to Gantt, the Senior coaching staff includes Carson’s Charissa Duncan, recent Western Carolina graduate Hunter Gibbons, who played high school ball at West Rowan, and Catawba players Taylor Martin (West) and Kaylee Cook (A.L. Brown).

The Senior team roster includes Catawba’s Waddell and Brooke Lowery; Carson’s Hales, Madison Anderson, Skylar Smith, Abbey Nixon and Holly Stower; East’s Sprinkle, Trexler,  Misenheimer, Emily Davis and Madison Schroeder;  Salisbury’s Yang; West’s Simpson and Cheyenne Barber, Mooresville’s Tuell, Gray Stone’s Andrea Furr; Glover of South Stanly and Lonna Addison.

Five teams will qualify for the state tournament that will be held Aug. 12-14  at Shelby’s Cleveland Community College.

Todd McNeely, who was instrumental in getting Rowan’s program started in the summer of 2017, is focusing on the Junior team this season.