High school softball: West has some powerful bats, new pitching
Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 13, 2022
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan softball coach Jimmy Greene relied on the Class of 2021 for a long time.
Those girls — including starters Taylor Walton, KK Dowling, Allison Ennis, Megyn Spicer and Caylie Keller — have moved on, but West Rowan plans to continue as one of the top programs in the area.
“We do have another good team,” Greene said. “But this will be a big year of change for us. I had an easy year with the seniors we had last year. They’d have practice set up when I got there.”
Walton was a .400-hitter in the middle of the lineup and also could handle the pitching, so that leaves the biggest hole.
“Not having Taylor means our pitching will be new,” Greene said. “We’ve got our jayvee pitcher Carmen Freeze and we’ve got freshman Arabelle Shulenberger. Arabelle is going to have a fabulous career, but right now, she’s still a freshman.”
Shulenberger also plays the outfield and will be an asset as a hitter. She just missed a home run at West Stanly, lining a ball off the fence.
Madelyn VonCanon and Karsen Simpson were pitchers in their Rowan Little League days, but Greene is counting on VonCanon to play left field and Simpson to handle third base. They’re good players.
The Falcons are expected be special at the top of the lineup.
Senior Kenadi Sproul is the returning starter at second base and brings a lot of speed to the lead-off spot in the lineup. She batted .441.
Sproul should score a lot of runs batting in front of Emma Clarke and Brooke Kennerly. She scored 35 in 2019 when she was a freshman. That’s the last time the softball players had a full season.
Clarke is only a sophomore but already is on the radar for some of the nation’s top programs. She’s a very good volleyball and basketball player, but this is what she does best and what she will do at the next level.
Clarke is Greene’s niece, so she’s family for the coach. He doesn’t want to put any undue pressure on her with his quotes, but it’s clear she has a chance to be one of the all-time softball players in the county.
The 6-footer will play shortstop this season, and the ball jumps off her bat. She crushed three homers in West’s first three games this season. She can not get all of a pitch and still hit it out.
“She’s strong and her hands are very fast,” Greene said. “She’s an exciting player. We just hope she leads the state in home runs and not in walks.”
Kennerly will bat behind Clarke in an effort to make sure Clarke sees a strike now and then.
Kennerly is an experienced, solid catcher and brings a lot of power to the plate. A junior who already has committed to Appalachian State, Kennerly got red-hot late last season and was good for a homer every night in the playoffs, no matter whom the Falcons were facing.
Kennerly and Clarke combined for 40 RBIs in the 2021 half-season.
“They are elite players, but we don’t want those two to feel like they’ve got to carry us,” Greene said. “We’ve got a lot of girls who can play.”
Young first basemen Riley Haggas could be the cleanup hitter. Haggas has also homered in the early going.
Haggas and the other first baseman, EA Nance, will both usually be in the lineup, with one serving as the DP.
The most likely outfield combination for the Falcons is VonCanon in left, Ashlee Ennis in center, and Taylor Keller in right.
“Defensively, that’s a strong group,” Greene said. “Ashlee is swinging the bat better than she ever has.”
Grace Holshouser is a young player who will provide depth at catcher and the outfield
The Falcons have a small senior class, but Greene expects a lot of leadership from Sproul, Regan Roakes and Madeline Kluttz.
West comes into this season off of a strong finishing kick in 2021. West finished behind Carson in the conference race, but rolled through East Rowan and Carson in the conference tournament before winning two playoff games.
Now West, Carson, East Rowan and South Rowan are all together in a new South Piedmont Conference. That league also includes Central Cabarrus, a traditionally strong softball school.
West has serious goals and has put together a challenging non-conference schedule to get ready for that conference race.
West Rowan softball
Coach: Jimmy Greene, 9th season, entered 121-41
Top returners: Catcher Brooke Kennerly, shortstop Emma Clarke, second baseman Kenadi Sproul
Key additions: Freshmen Arabelle Shulenberger and Riley Haggas
2021 record: 12-3
2022 record: 1-1-1
Playoffs: Lost 2-1 third round to North Buncombe