Youth boosts offensePublished 6:23pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Over the last four years, Northside’s illustrious softball program has transformed from a middle-of-the-table presence to a virtually unbeatable title contender. The inexperienced freshmen of old – Cheyenne Franks, Alexandra Cutler and Jessica Cleary – are now seasoned veteran starters and undeniable leaders, contributing with the bat and avoiding costly slip-ups in the field.
But unlike four years ago, this crop of freshmen and sophomores has been the catalyst behind the team’s recent success and put up conference-leading numbers. After the team finished just 8-10 in 2012, Kendall Alligood and MacKensi Swain were injected into the lineup the following year, combining for half of the team’s home runs and playing in all of the team’s 21 games. The pair proved durable and dependable.
This season, the core group of seniors, the dynamic offensive duo of Alligood and Swain and a top-tier freshman is serving as a recipe for success.
Rachel Lang, the new girl on the block and sister to Kelsey Lang, is that top-tier freshman, whether than be in the field, at the dish or on the rubber. As a pitcher, Rachel is the ace-in-waiting as Kelsey throws most of the innings, but in certain late-game and spot-start situations, Boyd has inserted the freshman phenom to compliment her big sister … and it’s paid off. In 18 innings, Rachel is 2-0 and has yet to give up an earned run. She not only has the ability to mix speeds, cycling between a high-velocity fastball and a changeup with movement, but also remains composed on the rubber no matter the situation.
And she’s even more impressive at the plate. The youngest player in the lineup is second on her team in batting average (.553) and first in on-base percentage (.609), recording a hit in all but one game this season.
Rachel adds production to a previously capable lineup, but the Panthers wouldn’t be where they are without Alligood and Swain improving upon their freshman campaign with a stellar 2014 season.
After batting .412 her first year, Alligood now leads her team in almost every offensive category, including hits, RBI, doubles and slugging percentage. As the starting catcher, she also plays one of softball’s most demanding positions flawlessly.
Her counterpart, Swain, is equally as impressive and has also improved upon her freshman numbers. Swain is batting .489 and is tied for the conference-lead in home runs at three. She’s also recorded eight multi-hit games in 13 starts.
Northside has seven conference games left on the schedule, only two against teams above the .500 mark. The Panthers are primed to sweep the Coastal Plains Conference without a blemish, but the team has one final test before postseason softball.
With Southside struggling, Northside will face the powerhouse Pam Pack in what will be the battle for Beaufort County bragging rights. The game will take place on May 7 in Washington.