Lael Rorie and her Porter Ridge softball team had a storybook season last year, going 33-1 overall, winning the 4A state title with a sweep of Holly Springs and finishing No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN’s Fab 50 poll.That squad returns 12 of their 14 players from a year ago. But they have lost pitcher Lexi Davis, who was ESPN National Player of the Year, N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year and Observer Player of the Year; she is now at Auburn University (where she is off to a 3-1 start with 19 strikeouts for the Tigers).The challenge of proving the team without Davis can be just as successful is all the motivation that they need, according to Rorie.“It’s would be impossible to lose a National Player of the Year and come back exactly the same team,” Rorie said. “We all know how good Lexi was, but she didn’t do it all herself. I think this team is eager to prove what they can do, and that they can still play at a very high level.”Porter Ridge stills boasts a wealth of talent. Starting senior catcher, Courtney Price, brings her .450 batting average. She has signed with Western Carolina and is a stellar defensive player.Price will help work juniors Kayleigh Jonas and Tara Loken (Winthrop commit) into the pitching rotation. Price, Jonas and Loken were also all-state selections, according to N.C. softball coaches’ picks.The Pirates all-state trio will be joined by senior shortstop Whitney Haywood (Western Carolina signee), junior Bobbi Jones, and sophomores Kara Cunningham and Bianca Franco as they work to strengthen their scoring ability.“We will definitely have to depend a lot more on our bats and defense this year,” Rorie said. “But I know these girls have the talent to do it. I’ve been coaching most of these girls since they were in sixth grade.”The Pirates have been a consistent winner in all seven seasons of the school’s existence. They have made the playoffs every season with Rorie at the helm.Since joining class 4A in the 2009-10 campaign, the Pirates have continued to improve. They have gone 76-7 in the last three seasons, combined with three straight Southern Carolinas Conference championships.“We didn’t build this program over night,” said Rorie, who has won five of seven conference titles in her tenure at Porter Ridge. “Almost all of these girls have been there and done that. A lot of them will be taking on new roles on the team. But we expect to do some great things.”Rorie’s desire to win comes from her playing days, when she starred at Independence High before becoming an all-Southern conference player at Appalachian State. Her softball experience, combined with her connection with the girls from a young age, has helped transform the Pirates program in one of the state’s best. “Ultimately, we want to win the conference championship and make a good run in the playoffs,” Rorie said. “If another state championship run is there, then that is what it is, too. We really expect to win and that doesn’t change.”
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013
Porter Ridge armed for another run
The Porter Ridge softball team went 33-1 last year, winning the 4A state title with a sweep of Holly Springs. They finished ranked No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN. Courtesy of Lael Rorie
More information Players to watch Other key Union County softball players include: • Jessica Curtis, Marvin Ridge. • Madison Arroyo, Marvin Ridge. • Jessica Steele, Marvin Ridge. • Bailey Bjornson, Metrolina Christian. • Shelby Helms, Forest Hills. • Allyson High, Forest Hills. • Sarah Tucker, Piedmont. • Hayleigh Gimber, Piedmont.