RCHS Softball: They’re ready

Spring adventure is underway in the dirt and on the mound of the RCHS softball practice fields. The Lady Panthers are vying for a regional berth this season.

Softball team members, from left, include Natalie Tupper, Lauren Settle, Hannah Kopjanski, Megan Early, Taylor Berta and Brittani Dodson. Photo by Melissa Delcour.

The Ladies’ coach, Jamie Harris, is entering his eighth year of coaching girls’ softball. During his career, Harris has set state records, earned two regional berths and sent six athletes into the collegiate arena. He has his sights set on nothing but glory this season. “If we play hard, when districts roll around, we have good chance to make regionals.”

The ingredients that make up the Lady Panther Varsity Softball team are a source of encouragement for high expectations. In the Bull Run District, Rappahannock touts the most returning players. Six core players are back on the field, along with senior Natalie Tupper, who took a year off from play.

The “sensational seven,” as Harris calls them, has some additional weaponry: two freshmen players, Lyndie Paul and Peyton Bailey, will be be joining the varsity team. “We have a powerful core and a strong bench of five to six reserves that we could ask at any time to come onto the field and contribute to certain parts of the game,” Harris said.

Their talents and drive to win is apparent during practices, where Harris described the atmosphere as “a lot of sweat. A lot of hard work. The girls bring an overall general excitement onto the practice team.”

Besides the intense practices that incorporate everything from running laps to individually coached work stations, Harris has plans to use the pre-games to help build his champions. “Our non-district schedule will be very competitive for us. We are set to face Bath County, East Hardy, Skyline [AA contender] and Hancock [Md.], along with our biggest non-district rival, Highland, who lost in their state competition last year. If we come out of that with a winning record, it will be a great motivator for us.”

One final aspect of the coach’s strategy is something Panther softball has not witnessed for quite a while. Since Harris tries to be a trailblazer wherever he is coaching, the girls reap the benefits of his zeal. For this sport, he has planned a March 27 tournament. “The girls don’t normally have a home tournament. This is a chance to earn a trophy and gain momentum.” The Lady Panthers could be starting a new tradition at RCHS.

Until the official district season begins, the practice plan is “fundamentals, working on agility, and attacking the ball on the defense. Until we see other teams pitch, we’re not sure. We could be a power offense, but we have a speed in the lineup that could allow us to play small ball. We’ll definitely have a diversity in how we approach our opponents.”

To create a winning team, Harris said, “it takes a group of girls who want to work together, who check their ego at the gate before practice and game. It’s not about an individual; it’s about a team effort.”

Lady Panthers offer the Rappahannock community a chance to see them in action during two home games this week — East Hardy tonight at 7 p.m. and Fredericksburg Christian School tomorrow at 7 p.m.