By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Talk about taking a hit.
West End High’s softball team only graduated four seniors from last year’s squad, but it would be fair to say those four alumni are going to be hard to replace.
“We lost our leadoff batter as well as the Nos. 2, 3 and 5 hitters,” coach Ricky Watkins said. “We’ve got some good players looking to replace them, but we’re still sorting it all out. We do have all of the pitchers back, though.”
The hit won’t be nearly as severe next spring, as the Patriots have only one senior this year in Tawney Boles.
“Tawney plays center field most of the time and is our most solid outfielder,” Watkins said. “She’s also the leadoff hitter this year. She is really good at putting the ball in play.”
Four others return from last season, plus some others with game experience, so not everything is new in 2013.
Juniors Morgan Cleveland and Courtney Oliver will handle the majority of the pitching duties, and both play shortstop.
Oliver also plays some first base.
As a freshman, Oliver was an honorable mention All-State player. She made first team as a sophomore.
“Courtney’s a really good batter,” Watkins said. “Right now, she’s on fire, and I hope that continues. She needs to have another All-State season.”
At the cleanup spot, Oliver is currently batting 12-for-17 (.705) at the plate.
“I wouldn’t call her a utility player,” Watkins said. “But she is the kind who has to be in the lineup, and she can field about any position.”
Watkins, who is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Patriots, guided the 2012 Patriots to 1 24-12 record and a berth in the Class 2A North Regional Tournament.
West End joins Gaston, Sand Rock and Asbury in Class 2A, Area 13.