High school softball: South Rowan continues to build

Published 11:33 pm Saturday, March 14, 2020

By Mike London

South Rowan softball

Coach: Dean Mullinax, 4th season, enters 30-42

Last 5 years: South is 43-68

Key returners: Twins Madison and Makenzie McGuire, pitcher Zoie Miller

Key addition: Freshman Bailey Yon

Key losses: Slugger Anna Blume, catcher Courtney Mullins, infielder Ashlyn Plott

2019 record: 5-15 overall, 5-13 Central Carolina Conference (8th)

Playoffs: Did not make playoffs


LANDIS— South Rowan head coach Dean Mullinax slapped ground balls at Raiders for most of a three-hour practice session last Monday.

There was a reason. South doesn’t have dominant pitching, so just about every toss can be put in play against the Raiders.

South also isn’t blessed with a lot of natural infielders, so Mullinax and assistant Kacie Stamey are teaching good outfielders how to be competent infielders.

It’s a process.

South made 20 errors in its first three games, 19 of them in the infield. South made seven infield errors in a lopsided loss to Oak Grove that opened the Central Carolina Conference season. That explains all the ground balls.

“The errors are something that we’ve got to fix, but the girls can’t work any harder than they are,” Mullinax said. “I know we’ll get it. Everyone wants you to take giant steps, but we’ve got to take baby steps for now.”

South was 5-15 last season, and Mullinax acknowledges the Raiders are facing another rebuilding season. They’re less experienced than they were a year ago when seniors such as Anna Blume, Ashlyn Plott, Courtney Mullins and Karley Wood gave South a decent core.

Now the leaders for the Raiders are the McGuire twins, Madison and Makenzie. This is their senior season. They’re both really good outfielders, but Mullinax figures that Madison is is his best shortstop option. Makenzie will anchor the outfield. She’ll play center most of the time, but when the Raiders face an especially hard-hitting opponent, she might shift over to left field where most of the action figures to be.

While both McGuires can play defense and run well, Madison has the stronger bat. She hit .467 last season.

“She’s come out swinging again,” Mullinax said. “She’s hit very well in our first three games.”

In the circle, it’s going to be Zoie Miller for the Raiders just about all the time. The sophomore, who won three games as a varsity freshman, is the only hurler listed on the roster.

“She’s throwing 45-50 mph, not 60-65 mph, so she’s got to rely on hitting her spots,” Mullinax said. “She’s taking lessons. She has a good sense of pitching. She’s working like crazy and she’s getting better.”

Pitching coach Bryan Ritchie is working with Miller.

Behind Miller is freshman Bailey Yon. She can play anywhere. She can get the ball over the plate if she’s asked to pitch.

“She’s not really an experienced pitcher, but she’ll do her best if Zoie needs a break,” Mullinax said. “She’s a team player.”

Yon’s best position might be catcher, but she’s going to be employed mostly as a corner outfielder. Breana Ramseur, who played on the jayvees last year, is expected to do the bulk of the catching.

A group of converted outfielders is being counted on to handle the infield. Besides Madison McGuire at short, Kali Nelson is at first base and McKinley Faw is at third base, Clara Bean, a sophomore who transferred from East Rowan, is expected to play second base.

“They can hit — they’ve all got some good power,” Mullinax said. “Faw has already hit a home run on a line drive that just kept carrying.”

Makenzie McGuire and Yon are set to be fixtures in the outfield, with Ivey Criscoe, a sophomore with a lot of speed, able to play center field.

Sarah Stowe is another hard-working outfielder, while Chloe Kelley can play first base or right field.

Autumn Crowell, a junior, has an injury to her throwing arm, so Mullinax’s 12-player roster has been reduced to 11 healthy girls.

He’s still optimistic about this season and the future of the program.

“There’s a really good group of girls at the middle schools, with a couple of pitchers, and we just have to hold things together for a while,” Mullinax said. “We’ll keep on working to get better. We know we’ll have to fight every game.”