ROCKINGHAM — Pitching could hold the key to help Rockingham’s Angels and Belles all-star teams bring back a state title from Eden this weekend.
The Angels rolled to the District 4 title last month by shutting down the opposition with strong pitching.
The pitching staff didn’t allow a single run during its march through Troy. The Angels outscored their opponents 38-0.
Scott Frye, one of the Angels coaches, said he is pleasantly surprised how good his staff has been during the tournament. At the Angels level, ages 9 to 10, this is the first time the players will have pitched to the opposition. In the division below, Darlings, it is coach-pitch.
“The one thing we have to continue is our strong pitching,” Frye said. “You have to have at least three good pitchers. We have more, but we haven’t needed them.”
The Angels may have to call on some of the those extra arms during the tournament. Morgan Singletary suffered a broken bone in her non-throwing hand while attempting a bunt in the district tournament.
Frye said her pitching status for this weekend is up in the air. He added they have contacted Dixie Softball officials about Singletary’s situation.
“If she can fit a glove over her hand, she can pitch,” Frye said. “If she can’t pitch, we will have to rely on some of the younger girls.”
Dixie Softball rules limit pitchers on the Angels level to 11 innings per tournament and three innings in a single game. With at least six games to win the state tournament, that means the possibility of 30 innings in the pitching circle for the Angels squad.
“Hopefully we can run-rule some teams,” Frye said, laughing. “Our bats are going to have to support our pitching. Plus, we have a strong defense behind them.”
The majority of the team participated in the state tournament as members of the Darlings team. Frye hopes that it will pay dividends at the next level.
“They saw the level of competition,” Frye said. “I feel like the experience will help.”
The Rockingham Angels are scheduled to open the state tournament 11 a.m. Saturday against Bessemer City at Stein Field. The winner of that game will face either Eden or Montgomery at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The losers from the opening two contests will square off 11:30 a.m. Sunday in an elimination matchup.
The Belles were nearly as strong in the pitching circle while breezing to the District 4 championship. The team allowed just three runs — all in the title game to West Stanly — in Troy. The Belles, like the Angels, also had some offensive firepower, scoring 38 runs.
Belles coach Danny Lampley likes the balance in his lineup and feels it could help them make a strong run in the tournament.
“Everyone talks about the No. 3, 4 or 5 hitter being your best hitter,” Lampley said. “Our No. 3 hitter may hit .700 or she may hit .350. It’s OK because our No. 7, 8 or 9 hitters may hit .750.”
Lampley, like his counterpart Frye, knows the key to winning the state championship will fall onto the shoulders of the pitching staff.
The Belles have a mixture of youth and maturity in the circle. NaLee Jacobs was moved up to the Richmond Senior varsity team at the conclusion of the junior varsity season. Greyson Wray, who helped the lead the Rockingham Angels all-star team to the World Series title two years ago, is playing up a level.
“Pitching is the name of the game,” Lampley said.
Lampley added he will have the luxury of having 15 innings for each pitcher during the tournament.
The Belles are slated to begin their tournament versus Moore County at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Peterson Field. The winner will face either Burgaw or Cherryville at 3 p.m. Sunday. The losers of the first two games will play each other in an elimination contest at noon Sunday.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.