Following an appearance in last year’s 3A East Regional under then first-year Coach Jay Abston, the Topsail softball team is ready for an encore performance coming off a 20-8 season as Mideastern Conference Champions.
With eight returning starters back in the Pirates’ lineup, including All-State selectees Keri White, Danielle Parks, Victoria Elder and Hayley Grizzle, Topsail has the pieces in place as the early frontrunners in the division.
White has already signed to play college ball next season at Appalachian State, while teammate Hunter Bizzell is a UNCW verbal commit and plays shortstop, creating a dynamic middle infield with Parks at second. Elder has established herself as one of the premiere pitchers in the area and Christine McLean has settled in behind the plate after earning the starting job as a freshman last season. The combination of young talent and veteran leadership has created an opportunity to continue the success and build a foundation in Hampstead from years to come.
“We’re well-rounded defensively and it starts in the circle,” said Abston. “I think we’re strong across the board. With a few surprises from last year’s junior varsity team we’re in a good spot. At the plate we’re built to swing it, but still have speed and ability to play small ball. Our girls believe in themselves and we’re very family oriented.”
Tanesha Williams brings a strong arm, speed and a solid bat to the Pirates’ outfield, with Alyssa Randall filling in across the infield and on the stripe. There are also high expectations for newcomers Mackenzie Williams, a freshman, and junior transfer Maddy Laster.
The rest of the Mideastern Conference has its work cut out, but Laney, Hoggard and West Brunswick are in position to contend. New Hanover has also shown a ton of improvement over the early portion of the year and Ashley is led by longtime Coach Chip Adams as league play got underway earlier this week.
Coach Jim Fisk has enjoyed a lot of success in Buctown over the years, entering the season with a 258-73 career record following a 9-3 mark in conference last year. Laney did lose six players from one season ago, but Fisk believes he has more depth on the roster this spring.
“With some timely hitting it could be a very good season,” said Fisk. “We do have a chance at it, but it’s a tough conference this year with Topsail, West Brunswick and Hoggard all contenders.”
For the Bucs, it all starts at the shortstop position with senior Kirstie Langley. She’s a four-year starter on the varsity level and looking to push Laney over the top.
Junior Savannah Watkins returns as the team’s leading hitter and First-Team All-Conference selection. Paige Cruse and Princess Jenkins will need to play a big role if the Bucs want to compete in the league, with freshman Tristen Horrell already making waves on the stripe.
The Trojans are always competitive under Coach Joe Noble, but West Brunswick has a little uncertainty moving into the spring after losing six players from a team that went 22-6 overall and 10-3 in the division one season ago.
All-Conference honorees McKenzie Benton and Haley Long look to keep the Trojans in the hunt, while senior Myah Morse worked hard during the off season to get herself in position to have success as ace of the staff.
With Randashia Daniels in center field and Christian Strickland ready to contribute after serving as a backup last season, West Brunswick has group looking to regain its form.
Early indications show the Vikings are ready for a move towards top of the conference. Led by senior corner infielders Nia Green and Aleah Thompson, Hoggard has a good mix of youth and experience on the roster.
Junior Morgan Mathis has already shown a strong presence in the circle, holding Topsail to just two runs on six hits over six innings earlier this week.
Sophomore Olivia Hawkins has emerged as a well-rounded asset to the Vikings order, with classmates Mia Boone, Mallory Brooks and senior Brianna Anderson patrolling the outfield.