Junior Lizzy Birch brings impressive resume back to Independence
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Junior Lizzy Birch brings impressive resume back to Independence

T. ORTEGA GAINES - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
Independence’s Lizzy Birch, sliding, returns after racking up many individual accolades as a sophomore, including conference player of the year and all-state.
  • Five to watch

    •  Carrie Eberle, Charlotte Catholic, Soph. – Pitcher, 5-foot-11. All-conference, all-district and 3A all-state pick was 13-6 with a 1.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts as a freshman.

    •  Meredith Harris, Charlotte Christian, Jr. – Infield, 5-foot-8. All-NCISAA and NCSCA all-state pick hit .617 with 28 RBIs for a Knights team that went 11-3.

    •  Erin Powers, Ardrey Kell, Sr. – Outfield, 5-foot-6. All-state UNC Charlotte signee was named district player of the year after batting .511 last year with 35 RBIs and two home runs.

    •  Aliyah Hastings, Butler, Jr. – Infield/Outfield, 5-foot-5. All-district and all-state pick hit five home runs last season and led the Bulldogs with 21 RBIs.

    •  Haley Reid, Providence High, Jr. – Pitcher, 5-foot-6. All-conference and all-district pick was 14-8 on the mound while hitting .439 with two home runs.

Lizzy Birch is a junior on the Independence High softball team, but she has the resume of a much more experienced player.

Last season, as a sophomore, Birch was named: Southwestern 4A player of the Year; South Charlotte News player of the Year; Mecklenburg County player of the Year (by the Observer); first-team All-Observer; N.C. Softball Coaches Association 4A all-state; and MaxPreps.com sophomore All-American.

“That’s just completely outstanding,” second-year head coach Amanda Larry said.

“I feel like you don’t really have those expectations for anybody except for maybe a senior who has been doing it a couple of years,” Larry said.

Birch, who has committed to play college ball at UNC Charlotte, said she was honored by the accolades but didn’t expect all of them; but she had the numbers last year to back up the awards.

The 5-foot-4 16-year-old batted .691 with three home runs and 12 doubles. She also played solid defense at second base for the Patriots.

“I don’t really know how I did that,” Birch said of her batting average. “I hit really well, and like I said, I worked really hard and I practiced a lot. So in the games I hit really well.”

Larry said she hopes Birch can do it again this year. She called Birch a very coachable player who is a student of the game.

“She not only wants to be successful, but she wants to have a successful process, as well,” Larry said. “She wasn’t the type of player that expected to be perfect. She just expected to do everything right and let the outcome be what it may.”

This offseason, Birch, who plays travel ball with Team NC, worked on her hitting and the ability to hit the ball to different parts of the field.

“I always want to try and work as hard as I can and achieve more,” she said. “I don’t like to settle for what I’ve already accomplished.”

Larry said Birch knows how to do certain things on the field and understands why she should use specific footwork or have certain mechanics.

She also can teach it to other players, which will come in handy this season. The Patriots have seen two other all-state players – pitcher Morgan Benson and shortstop Jen Birch, Lizzy’s older sister – graduate last year.

Larry will entrust Birch with getting the new middle infielder up to speed.

“It will definitely be hard to replace (Benson and Jen Birch), but I think we can do it,” Birch said.

The Patriots started last season 2-5 but won the next 13 games, taking the regular-season conference championship. But the team wasn’t happy with a 19-7 loss to Ardrey Kell in the SW4A tournament championship game and an extra-inning 8-7 loss to Southwest Guilford in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state tournament.

“I’m definitely hoping it gives them a little fire underneath them,” Larry said. “I think it will definitely teach us not to take any teams lightly.”

Larry said this Independence team is experienced, with seven starters returning. She hopes to continue building the program and is fielding a junior varsity team this year.

It helps to have a player like Birch to lead the program forward.

“For anyone to have the fundamental skill base that she has, plus the smarts and the knowledge of the game, was obviously a great thing to walk into,” Larry said. “If she can perform the way she did last year, that’s going to give us at least a step in the right direction.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe

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