Stepping Up: The best is yet to come for Washington softball

Published 5:18 pm Saturday, May 28, 2016

Last season was an impressive one for Washington softball. The Lady Pack finished the season 16-5 and third in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, trailing only elite clubs in Beddingfield and North Johnston. The six seniors on the 2015 squad led the team on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game.

Pitcher Haley Hutchins quarterbacked a stingy defense that allowed just 36 runs in 21 games. She started each game, posting an astounding 1.38 earned run average. She amassed 175 strikeouts and finished her final Lady Pack campaign with a 16-5 record.

Washington was just as strong at the plate as it was in the field. Last season, four seniors — Hutchins, Catie Dority, Haley Wright and Allison Brantley — batted over .400. They combined to scored 83 of the team’s 160 runs in the season.

To lose such a talented group of players that helped build the program into what it is today was a big blow. Regardless, head coach Doug Whitehead knew before the season that he had something special.

Special was an understatement.

Three seniors in Chrissy McKissick, Style McKissick and Sarah Alligood led the Lady Pack this year. After them was a strong junior class. The McKissick twins helped the offense pick up where it left off. They combined for 62 runs and 53 RBI on 77 hits over the course of their 27-game senior season.

LEADING THE CHARGE: Style McKissick steps up to bat on Friday evening. Her, Chrissy McKissick and Sarah Alligood were the team’s lone seniors. They capped off their high school careers with a historic playoff run.

It wasn’t just a two-player operation at the plate, though. Jordan Pierce, Meghan Moore, Sarah Lynch and Hailey Harris — all juniors — each batted well over the .300 mark, too.

On defense, the Lady Pack had plenty of players able to play multiple positions. It was a pleasant problem for Whitehead, who was in no rush to settle on a definitive starting lineup early in the season. He happily experimented with different players at different positions, as well as the batting order, throughout non-conference play.

It didn’t hinder Washington as it prepared for league opponents. The Lady Pack only dropped games to top-tier clubs in East Carteret, Conley, Northside and Virginia’s No. 1 team Grassfield.

Since he was never concerned about the girls’ defensive performance, his objective was to settle into a lineup that would work well at the plate. After all, he had tremendous confidence in Harris as pitcher. Rightfully so, too.

Harris more than cushioned the loss of Hutchins by starting all but one game, amassing an 18-8 record and 2.10 ERA. She finished the season with 227 strikeouts and will be a force as a senior in 2017, too.

Patience settling into a lineup paid off in the form of 198 runs scored in 27 games. They had contributions from the leadoff to the nine-spot batters. Offensively, the end of the season and impressive playoff run saw the emergence of sophomore Mary B. Dixon, too. Whitehead had brought her up for key conference games and to help contend for the state championship. Dixon, in 11 games this season, batted .423 with six runs and seven RBI.

AIMING HIGH: Meghan Moore swings for the fences against South Granville on Friday. Moore, a junior, is one of many reasons Washington should be excited for next season. She was one of the team’s MVP’s in the playoffs.

This season was nothing short of magical. It went until South Granville — the defending 2-A champion — topped the Lady Pack for the eastern regional title.

The appearance in the regional-championship series was the furthest any Lady Pack squad has ever gone. Even if the girls were aiming for a state championship, their accomplishments this year leave nothing to be ashamed of.

Around 400 spectators at Friday’s game got to see first hand how impressive this Washington team was. What they may not know — at least not yet — is that the best is yet to come for Lady Pack softball.