Eagles potential for growth cut short

Just as the Richard Winn softball team was showing some bright signs of progress in their early season competition, COVID-19 raged its ugly head and halted all spring sports, closed schools, and changed life as everyone once knew it.

With their fifth staffing change in four years, the young Eagle team looked to improve as the season progressed under the direction of new head coach Roe Coleman and assistant William Ladd, both alumni of Richard Winn. Though Coleman brought a surplus of experience from his years as head baseball coach at Landrum and Ridge View High Schools, this season was his first at the helm of a softball program. Ladd played baseball at The Citadel and has previously assisted the Eagle baseball team.

The Eagles were beginning to overcome a pre-season of hurdles – adapting to a new coaching staff, filling positions left empty by the six graduates of the previous 10 player squad and limited practice time on the field because of rainy weather.

Coleman saw his players making adjustments, refining skills and eagerly learning the game under their new coaches. The Eagles finished their brief three-game season winless, but the team’s potential was limitless.

“We were excited about the potential the girls showed and felt like by the end of the year we would’ve been a very competitive group in our region and throughout the playoffs,” said Coleman.

Their willingness to work hard to improve, coupled with their youth and aggressiveness, could have proven beneficial as the season progressed. Naturally the disappointment of the season’s end hit seniors Riley Simpson and Brooke Pauley hardest.

Simpson, a softball veteran since 6th grade, is a three sport athlete with the versatility to play both infield and outfield positions. Because of her speed and athleticism, she filled the starting center field or catcher positions most often. Fearless at the plate, Simpson unofficially held the team’s record for getting on base by being hit by pitches. Her speed also helped her rack up a number of stolen bases.

 “I am sad that my senior year was cut short,” Simpson said. “We were going to have a very fun and successful year. I loved the new coaches and all they had to offer. Just with the short amount of time we had together, we learned a lot. We were going to be an awesome team with a lot of fun games.”

With a freshman year of varsity softball experience, Pauley took a couple years off before rejoining the team as a senior. A lefty, she anchored down the first base starting position.

“I was looking forward to spending time with my teammates and playing first base for my team,” commented Pauley. “I felt very sad and disappointed that the season had to end the way it did.”

Under normal circumstances, the young Eagle team would have continued to grow as the season progressed.

“Unfortunately for the team,” Coleman said, “because we (coaching staff) came on so late, it was hard to set goals for the team outside of day-to-day practices and games.”

With a team eager to learn and an accomplished coaching staff, the season goals would have been high. Prospects for the 2021 squad remain promising.

“We return all but two seniors who will be greatly missed. We have a lot of girls coming back who have some experience and many are versatile players,” said Coleman.