Former Butler High softball star Constance Orr now playing coach at Porter Ridge
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Tuesday, May. 06, 2014

Former Butler High softball star Constance Orr now playing coach at Porter Ridge

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/30/13/40/1hGhdf.Em.138.jpeg|495
    DIEDRA LAIRD - 2008 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
    Former Butler and University of North Carolina softball star Constance Orr is head coach at Porter Ridge High.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/30/13/40/BOAwE.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - PORTER RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL
    First-year Porter Ridge coach Constance Orr, left and two-time all-state senior Kayleigh Jonas are two reasons Porter Ridge is on top of the SW4A conference.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/30/13/40/RzY7o.Em.138.jpeg|293
    Robert Lahser - 2012 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
    Porter Ridge senior Kayleigh Jonas is the team’s top pitcher (7-1) and hitter.

This time last year, Constance Orr was finishing her softball career as a player, putting an exclamation point on her time at the University of North Carolina with an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performance that included a career-best .356 batting average, 62 hits in 60 games, 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.

After graduating with a degree in exercise and sport science last May, the former Butler High All-American who led the Bulldogs to three straight state titles (2006-08) wasn’t sure what her next move would be.

Softball afforded her yet another opportunity last summer.

Former Porter Ridge coach Lael Rorie stepped down just before the 2013-14 school year, when her family made the decision to move to Beaufort, S.C.

Rorie told Orr about the opening and recommended her to Porter Ridge Athletic Director Bill Rogers, according to Orr.

Only 22 and straight out of college, Orr landed her first high school head-coaching job at what has been one of the state’s best programs. The Pirates had gone 94-14 in the past four years, including a 4A state title in 2012, when they also finished No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN’s FAB 50 poll.

Orr would inherit most of the lineup from an 18-7 squad that advanced to the 4A state quarterfinal in 2013 before falling to eventual state champion Alexander Central.

“Honestly, I knew I was lucky to get to start out at an established program like Porter Ridge, and I was very excited to get that kind of opportunity so quickly,” said Orr, who also teaches health and physical education. “But I was also nervous at first to get started on the right foot. Right away, I showed the girls how much I respected them and they showed me how much they respected me.”

The Porter Ridge players were also happy to get a coach with Orr’s experience.

“At first, when we found out Lael was leaving, we were all calling each other freaking out, wondering who would be our next coach,” said senior pitcher and infielder Kayleigh Jonas, a two-time N.C. Softball Coaches Association all-state pick who has signed to play at Mount Olive. “Then, when we found we were getting coach Orr, we were really excited. Honestly, she is one of the best coaches I have ever had in my life.”

The chemistry between Orr and her players showed immediately, as the Pirates (18-1, 11-0 going into the Rocky River game May 2) won their first 11 games this season, including against Butler, Independence, Piedmont, Weddington and West Stanly.

Porter Ridge’s only loss came at home against Weddington on April 2. The Pirates won seven straight after that game.

The team is averaging 13 runs while surrendering only three per game.

“At first, in some of the pressure situations and tight games, it was weird being on the sideline, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Coach, put me in,’ and then was like, ‘Oh yeah, I am the coach,’” said Orr. “But I trust my team and my players 100 percent to make plays.”

Porter Ridge administrators say they also are impressed with Orr.

“Constance has done very well for us so far this year, especially when you consider that she got a late start, and was replacing a very successful coach that was respected by the players and parents,” Rogers said. “No matter who you are, when it is your first year teaching and coaching, there is a learning process to go through; however, we are happy about how well she has done.”

Orr has a team loaded with talent and experience, beginning with Jonas, the team’s top pitcher (7-1) and hitter.

But the Pirates also have gotten contributions from seniors including Tara Loken (who has signed with Winthrop) and Bobbi Jones, juniors Kara Cunningham and Hallie Rice, sophomore Hannah Smith (all-state last year) and freshmen Danielle Chapman and Sam Smith.

Both Orr and her players have been eager to keep Porter Ridge one of the state’s top 4A programs.

“As a coach, my main goal has been to keep this team on the same track, the same intensity every game,” Orr said. “We don’t want to play up or down to our competition. We want to play our game all the time.”

While the Pirates already have wrapped up the Southwestern 4A regular-season title, they will judge themselves by what they do in the postseason.

“I know we are even more motivated this year, especially the seniors,” said Jonas. “We had some tough losses last year that we weren’t used to. So we want to prove we can be one of the best teams, again.”

While winning is important, Orr says, she enjoys the interaction with players and seeing their progress.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a coach even more than I thought I would,” Orr said. “I love seeing the girls incorporate some of things I’ve tried to pass onto them into their games. We’ve all connected and already have a great bond together.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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