Seahawk softball playing to its strengths, off to a strong start

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS BOUNCING BACK: After dropping their final 10 games last season, the Seahawks, led by Tia Hardy and Angelica Tisdale, are off to a 4-3 start after a 13-3 win over Bear Grass on Tuesday.

BOUNCING BACK: After dropping their final 10 games last season, the Seahawks, led by Tia Hardy and Angelica Tisdale, are off to a 4-3 start after a 13-3 win over Bear Grass on Tuesday.

CHOCOWINITY — The Southside softball team is without many luxuries. It isn’t blessed with a seven-pitch, seasoned hurler like Washington’s Haley Hutchins and the lineup is far from Northside’s home run hitting murder’s row, chock-full of potential collegiate prospects. The scoreboard is dated, the coach in his first year and the third baseman left handed.

Across the river in Chocowinity, the Seahawks are forced to play a different kind of game, doing whatever is necessary, even if it isn’t pretty, to manufacture a run, while limiting the same mistakes that plagued them last season.

“We have a lot of speed, therefore we use that to our advantage,” said head coach Milton Ruffin. “We’re going to force the other team to have to make plays. We’re very aggressive running the bases and we put the bat down on the ball.”

In 2014, Southside struggled to produce runs early in ballgames and errors were widespread, quickly turning close ballgames into blowouts. The team posted a dreary 5-13 record last year after dropping its last 10 games, but seven games into this season, Southside seems to be a program on the rise. And even if it doesn’t pan out, the effort is certainly there.

“Every time the girls get some runs early they get in the game more,” coach Ruffin said. “I’m talking to them a lot about being focused and playing all seven innings … As a first-year coach, it makes me feel really good. I know our girls do have some potential, so I’m just trying to keep them focused get that full potential out of them.”

Despite the winning record (4-3), Southside hasn’t gotten any older since last season. The team fields just three senior starters compared to three freshmen and two sophomore starters. Corner infielders Angelica Tisdale and Tia Hardy are the captains purposed with not only leading the Seahawks and staying error free in the field (despite Tisdlae being a left-handed third basemen), but being the primary producers on offense as well. So far, the veterans and the rookies know their roles and have fully bought into their new coach’s system.

During Tuesday’s game against conference foe Bear Grass, the first three batters of the game for Southside, all freshmen, started things off with three-straight drag bunt singles. Symone Ruffin legged one out, Hannah Paramore placed one perfectly down the third base line and, after a double steal, Danielle Ruffin successfully executed a squeeze play. One batter later, Paramore scored on a close play at the plate, testing the catcher after a wild pitch.

Southside continued to hit the ball on the ground, forcing four errors from the Bears and using their speed to beat out throws in the infield. After a while, the visitors struggled keep pace and, as the sports saying goes, the game turned into a track meet. Southside took the contest, 13-3, in five innings.

“It’s a big difference,” Hardy said. “I believe in us and I think we’ll do well … I think we can really do it as long as we have our minds together and we’re focused.”

The start is promising, but the Seahawks have a long conference slate ahead of them, beginning on Thursday with the rival Panthers, one of the strongest 1-A teams in the state at a perfect 7-0. Other Coastal Plains Conference teams like East Carteret (8-1) Pamlico County (5-2) and even Jones Senior (4-2) have looked formidable, thus far, but that’s not shaking the Seahawks confidence just yet.

“I talk to the girls all the time, sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s just how you play the game,” coach Ruffin said. “If you play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, I’m happy and you should be happy.”

Following this week’s matchup against Northside in Chocowinity, the Seahawks will host East Carteret on April 14 after Spring Break.