At least from the standpoint that the Robinson High softball team had never before gone so deep into the playoffs, last year’s run to the 3A state championship finals was unexpected.But with most of their players back and a stable of quality replacements ready to take their turn in the starting lineup this season, the Bulldogs won’t be able to sneak up on anyone.Perhaps the only question this season is whether Robinson’s talent can stack up to the rest of its new MECKA 4A opponents. By joining the 4A conference this year, the Bulldogs will go head-to-head with a mix of tradition-rich programs and upstarts – all ready to make their mark, just as Robinson did last year.“A lot of things worked for us last year,” said Jim Allen, Robinson’s fifth-year coach. “On top of being a good team, things have to go your way. This year is another year, and we will try to take it one step further.”Robinson lost three starters from last year’s team, which finished 29-4 overall, tied for the regular-season championship and won the South Piedmont 3A Conference tournament.Among the returning starters: senior Tori Zavodny, a center fielder and Robinson’s top returning hitter (.449 batting average, .528 on-base percentage); and senior first baseman Alyssa Sciaudone (.382 BA, .436 OBP). Zavodny and Sciaudone have signed to play college softball at Liberty and Belmont Abbey, respectively.The Bulldogs’ battery of pitcher Keleigh Romine and catcher Sam Grazier, both juniors, also return.Romine had a 22-4 record on the mound with 237 strikeouts in 175 innings. She batted .385 with five home runs and had an on-base percentage of .448.Grazier batted .339 and picked eight runners off base. She led the team with a .993 fielding percentage.Both Romine and Grazier have sisters who are key contributors to the team: Krista Romine, Keleigh’s twin, is a returning starter in left field; Chelsea Grazier is a sophomore middle infielder who batted .320 last year.Sophomore Jill Williams has an important role to play, too, after a magnificent freshman year where she batted .398 with 12 doubles. She was a third baseman and designated hitter, as well as playing backup for Romine on the mound.Although numbers suggest Robinson was a sound offensive team and Romine’s production was key to the team’s success, Allen said it was hard to pinpoint one component that defined his team.“We were pretty good at everything, and everyone got along,” he said.The Bulldogs were very good at winning close games late in the season. Two of their five state playoff wins were by one run, including their 1-0 Western Regional final victory over Enka.In its best-of-three state championship series with Conley, Robinson won the first game, 4-2, but lost the next two by 12-7 and 6-4 scores.Several players who have honed their skills within the Robinson program over the last couple of years are expected to make contributions to the varsity team this year.After leading the junior varsity in hitting for two straight years, junior McKayla Davis will play a lot of third base for the varsity Bulldogs this year. Junior Cara Hardin can play in the infield or outfield, and sophomore Jordan Lemasters has worked hard to find some innings on the mound.Allen said his biggest problem may be finding an appropriate amount of playing time for all his talented players.“I think we’ll have another solid year,” said Allen. “We have good, talented players returning and good, talented players that were in the system that will be filling in for the girls that left. We also have a good little group of freshmen coming in.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
Robinson softball moves to 4A after 3A runner-up finish
Five to watch
Kaitlin Moore – A.L. Brown, sophomore. Catcher, 5-5. Made all-South Piedmont 3A Conference by leading A.L. Brown with a .591 batting average and an off-the-charts slugging percentage of 1.116. Moore also belted 12 doubles and knocked in 16 runs. Will lead the Wonders into the MECKA 4A Conference.
Ericka David – Cox Mill, senior. Shortstop/catcher, 5-8. Was named the South Piedmont 3A Conference Player of the Year in 2013. David hit .491, scored 24 runs and drove in 22. She reached base almost 53 percent of the time. Cox Mill was 6-1 in games in which she had more than one hit.
Kaylee Freeman – Central Cabarrus, senior. Pitcher, 5-7. Sported an 8-1 record and a 1.34 earned run average in helping Central Cabarrus to the South Piedmont 3A regular season title. Along with Brittany Guidera, Freeman is one of two Vikings pitchers who won at least seven games last season.
Whitley Miller – Mount Pleasant, senior. Centerfield/infield, 5-7. Named all-conference, all-region and all-state in 2012 and 2013. Last season, Miller batted .434 and led Mount Pleasant with 33 hits and 19 runs batted in while batting leadoff. Belted eight extra-base hits. Signed with Tusculum.
Tori Zavodny – Robinson, senior. Centerfield, 5-7 1/2. Led Robinson with a .449 batting average as the Bulldogs reached the 3A state championship finals. With 48 hits, 16 of which went for extra bases, Zavodny had a .528 on-base percentage. Part of a talented Bulldogs lineup as the team moves to 4A.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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