ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior softball coach Wendy Wallace has had no problem getting her teams into the state playoffs.
It’s that pesky second round that gives her fits.
Richmond was 21-4 last season and 10-0 in the Southeastern Conference to capture the regular season crown. The Raiders won 17 straight games before falling to Scotland in the SEC tournament championship game. After defeating Harnett Central in its playoff opener, Richmond was eliminated by West Johnston 2-1 in the second round.
Wallace hopes this year’s squad will be the one that helps her break the door down and gets her into the third round.
“This is the most seniors I have had in a long time,” Wallace said. “Two years ago I had two, and last year I had three. This year I have seven.”
Returning for the Raiders are five members from last season’s North Carolina Softball Coaches Association’s all-state team and four of them seniors. Senior shortstop Ashton Davenport hit .326 with four doubles, a triple, nine runs batted in and scored a team-high 27 runs. Senior pitcher Summer Jacobs posted a 16-2 record with 83 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings and a 1.16 ERA. At the plate, she batted .378 with seven doubles, two triples and 16 RBI. Senior outfielder Hunter Parks hit .394 and led the team with six home runs and 24 RBI. Senior first baseman Jessica Steen batted .413 with two home runs, six doubles and drove in 14.
Sophomore third baseman Doodle Jacobs was the fifth selection. She batted .412 with five doubles, a triple, scored 14 runs and eight RBI.
It’s not just having all that senior leadership that Wallace is excited about it. She said her entire roster has some varsity experience and believes that will be handy, not only in the regular season but come the postseason as well.
“They came out with a purpose this year,” Wallace said.
This will mark the second straight season Wallace has been forced to replace the SEC’s player of the year. Last year she tabbed Summer Jacobs as the Raiders’ top pitcher after Casey Snead graduated. This season she is looking for an outfielder to fill in for Cierra Bowden. In addition to Bowden, Richmond lost starters Bailey Coulthard (catcher) and Elizabeth Pittman (second base).
Bowden hit .463 last season with four doubles, four home runs and 21 runs batted in. Coulthard batted .351 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 17 RBI. Pittman hit .351 and knocked in 12.
Wallace plans on inserting Jennifer Steen, who platooned in right field last year, behind the plate and Katie Satterfield at second. And as far as replacing Bowden, Wallace said she will go with the hot bat.
“We need to play good defense behind Summer,” Wallace said. “I feel if we can play good defense, we will score enough runs. As a whole we aren’t that fast but I think we will have more speed than we have had.”
Richmond will open the season 5 p.m. today against Anson at home before hitting the road to battle Jack Britt Friday. Wallace added her team will be tested early against good competition before starting conference play.
“I told them this is my eighth year and I think we have beat Jack Britt three times,” Wallace said. “We just have to take care of business. It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to do what we do. We don’t want to give the other teams any extra outs. If we play defense behind Summer like we are capable of, we will be fine.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.