Providence Grove’s Leela Von Der Hay tags out Southwestern Randolph’s Madison Varner. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
CLIMAX – Some growing pains are going to be part of the process for Providence Grove’s softball team this season.
That’s fine with coach Tim Brown as long as the Patriots show progress.
Providence Grove was undefeated in the regular season last year, but five starters are gone from that team.
“Comparing everything to last year would be difficult for everybody,” senior pitcher Emma Mazzarone said. “It was a special team. This year could be special, too. You can’t compare to last year because it won’t happen again.”
Brown said the Patriots will be tested regularly in the Piedmont Athletic Conference.
“In Randolph County, you have to bring it every night,” he said. “We’re going to keep (winning) as long as we can.”
Mazzarone and catcher Gracie Smith provide a nice foundation. Mazzarone led the state in strikeouts with 364 in 2022.
The Patriots are learning as they go.
“I think the girls are definitely feeling a little more pressure considering they have to step into last year’s girls’ shoes,” Mazzarone said. “They all know the fundamentals of softball and they’ll be just fine.”
First baseman Callie Lambert said maintaining the standard is important, but not an overwhelming issue.
“There is pressure, but the goal is to always play hard,” Lambert said.
The Patriots dropped a non-conference decision to Oak Grove, a matchup that Brown knew would be a challenge.
“We wanted to see good pitching,” he said.
In the Piedmont Athletic Conference, Providence Grove began with Mazzarone striking out 13 Wheatmore batters in a 10-0, five-inning home victory. Callie Lambert a home run and a double.
The grip might have been loosened on the PAC by contender Southwestern Randolph, which topped the host Patriots 5-0 in Friday’s meeting.
Providence Grove’s only hit off Southwestern Randolph ace Macie Crutchfield was Devon Kelly’s seventh-inning single. Crutchfield struck out 14 with three walks.
Caressa King and Alley Lowe had two hits, including a double apiece, and knocked in runs for the Cougars. Mazzarone struck out 11 batters and walked two.
Other softball …
- Earlier in the week, Crutchfield struck out 18 in an 8-0 romp past North Davidson.
- Randleman’s Sarah Norton threw two shutouts during the week. She handled Northern Guilford in a 3-0 non-conference game and then blanked Wheatmore 9-0.
- Eastern Randolph topped host Southern Alamance 13-10 in nine innings. The Wildcats built a 10-3 lead before Southern Alamance rallied in the sixth and seventh innings to extend the game. Lanie McDaniel had four hits and three RBI for Eastern Randolph and teammate Addie Flinchum, who strikeout 16 from the circle, also drove in four runs.