The McDowell Lady Titans varsity softball team may have a few spots in their lineup that will fill in over the course of the 2019 season, but otherwise, a solid core of players returns and should give the Lady Titans the chance to compete in the very competitive Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
McDowell’s season gets underway this afternoon as they host East Rutherford at 5 p.m. (varsity only) and it should be a good opening test for this year’s squad.
Coming off a 16-9 campaign a year ago, the Lady Titans return six starters from last season, most of them capable of playing multiple positions on the field, so it should give head coach Catriona Young some flexibility not only defensively but in the lineup as well.
That flexibility will be important as the team will have to replace some important pieces from the top of last season’s lineup and on the left side of the infield.
Returning starters include 2018 All-State selection Dezi Williams. The USC-Upstate bound outfielder had a big junior season in the lineup by leading the Lady Titans in hitting (.426), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.456), stolen bases (21) and runs (21). Williams was second on the team with a .629 slugging percentage and tied for second in hits with 23. She also had a home run and drove in nine.
Williams’ production increased late last season when she moved from the bottom part of the lineup to the No. 2 spot, and it is expected that Williams will anchor the top of the lineup as a senior.
Other seniors including All-District outfielder Nicole Gallion, starting pitcher Kirsten Melvin, pitcher/infielder Emma Banks, utility player Laynie Hudgins and reserves Candace Cooper and Callie Spratt.
Gallion (Greensboro College), Hudgins (Lees-McRae) and Banks (Emory and Henry) all signed to play collegiately back in the fall.
The rest of the varsity roster will include as many as six juniors.
Morgan Waycaster will be looked upon for increased production in the infield. Alexa Poplin will serve as an option at catcher with Mariah Hunt, Madison Wills and Jaden Shuford capable of playing multiple areas on the field and Taylor Morgan providing depth on the pitching staff.
Sophomores Jessica and Jada Cannon both look to give McDowell a lot of speed and defensive prowess this season. Jessica was a reserve on the varsity roster last season and was most utilized as a courtesy runner. Her role will expand significantly as an infield option while Jada could see time in the outfield.
Pitcher Lucy Hames and utility player Madi Smith will round out the roster in terms.
Coach Young will also have additional sophomores that could dress on some varsity game days depending on the opponent.
The Lady Titans will have non-conference games at Owen on Thursday and host Franklin on Saturday. Other non-conference games include a home-and-home with North Buncombe and single games against Crest and R-S Central.
League play will begin on March 5 at home against St Stephens. McDowell begins the season with four of its first five at Titan Field.
McDowell High softball schedule 2019
Feb. 27 East Rutherford
Feb. 28 @Owen
March 2 Smoky Mtn. (@Crest)
March 2 Franklin (@Crest)
March 5 St. Stephens*
March 6 North Buncombe
March 8 South Caldwell*
March 12 @Watauga*
March 13 Crest
March 15 Alex. Central*
March 19 @West Caldwell*
March 21 @R-S Central
March 22 @Hickory*
March 25 @St. Stephens*
March 26 Freedom*
Apr. 2 @South Caldwell*
Apr. 5 Watauga*
Apr. 9 @Alex. Central*
Apr. 12 West Caldwell*
Apr. 15 Hickory*
Apr. 17 @Freedom*
Apr. 24 @North Buncombe
Apr. 25 Owen
*Northwestern 3A/4A Conference game