East champs ready to repeat

Published 4:54 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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After a trip to the 2A state championship finals last spring, the Washington High School softball teams goal is obvious. However, the road to wherever the title series is held will probably be a little bumpier this spring.

The Pack went 27-0 last year before falling to West Stanly in the championship series in Chapel Hill and won 16 contests by the 10-run mercy rule.

Eastern Plains Conference Player of the Year Laci Campbell graduated along with All-Conference selections Morgan Eisenzimmer and Olivia Paszt and starting right fielder Abbey Gardner.

Offense will be harder to generate, but opponents aren’t shedding any tears.

Senior infielders Shaelee Chrismon, Erin Everett and Ava Mizell return along with the sophomore pitcher-catcher duo of Emma Orr and Addison Miller.

“Our offense starts with Ava as our lead-off batter,” coach Brad Horton said of the senior who hit seven home runs last year. “She needs to get on base somehow to let the others bring her in. We have the potential to be as powerful as we were last year, but our lineup is a lot younger and it will take some time for them to adjust to actual in-game pitching, as opposed to hitting in practice.”

Everett (3B), Mizell (SS), junior Peyton Youmans (2B) and Chrismon (1B) are the projected infield starters with starting outfield spots still up for grabs.

Alani Hyatt and Ava Linnen are freshman who could play out there,” Horton said. “Micah Lilley, Samantha Ward, Sue Garcia and Charli Simons are also in the mix. We have more depth and versatility at all positions this year and we will move people around the first part of the year.”

The one who won’t move around much is the left-handed Orr, who struck out 190 batters in 142.2 innings with an 0.64 ERA her freshman year.

“She was outstanding for us last year, but people forget she’s just a sophomore,” Horton said. “She has worked to improve her location and her mental game. She’s more mature and learning to stay calmer on the mound. She knows she can still improve and has worked hard to get there.”

Horton expects the East Plains Conference to be better with more experienced players returning, with West Craven, SouthWest Edgecombe and Farmville Central providing stiffer competition. Potential post-season opponents include Jordan-Matthews, Bunn, South Columbus and South Granville.

“We have the ability, but we need to stay grounded and the older girls need to keep reminding the younger ones how much consistent work it took to get to the state finals,” Horton said. “I expect more seven inning games this year and probably a loss or two, which should make us work even harder. It’s a good group with plenty of potential that needs to continue to develop on a daily basis.

The Pam Pack host Edenton in the season-opener Wednesday at 6 p.m. A pre-game ceremony recognizing members of the first WHS softball team from 1978 will start at 5:45.