Lady Warriors grab second

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, June 2, 2009

MERRY HILL – A season that started slowly ended well.

The Lawrence Academy varsity softball team began the season 1-4 and it appeared the end of a softball power may be at hand. Then the Lady Warriors turned it around, winning 18 of their final 24 to finish 19-10 for the season.

In the process, the Lady Warriors finished second in the Tarheel Independent Conference, won the TIC tournament and placed second in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs.

Senior co-captains Sarah Capehart and Leanne Eubanks said they expected the season to go better than it started, but about like it ended.

“What I expected at the beginning of the season was to come together as a team to make it to the state tournament,” Eubanks said.

Capehart agreed.

“At the beginning of the 2009 season, I expected to have a very successful season with a group of girls that had the talent to carry the team to the state playoffs,” she said.

As for the slow beginning, the captains said they thought they could get it back together.

“At the beginning, we weren’t playing our best and we did not take anything seriously,” Eubanks said. “After our loss to Northeast, we decided there was no room for embarrassment and we got serious.”

Capehart said they had to work harder than when they began.

“With a record of one and four at the beginning of the season, we all realized we had to step up, work harder and get our heads in the game,” she said. “It became apparent that we play better as a team when we are relaxed and have fun playing the game. The upset at Northeast was a huge turning point for the team.”

Lawrence Head Softball Coach Kristin Nobles said the early-season game with eventual state champion Cape Fear Christian also hurt the team.

“We started with Cape Fear and took three losses at the beginning of the season,” she said. “Although they were good games for us, the losses kind of snow-balled. It took getting wins against Halifax, Hobgood and Ridgecroft for them to realize what they were capable of.”

Nobles said she thought her team had the ability to get it turned around, but it was a matter of timing.

“I always thought we had the opportunity to have a great season,” she said. “Jennifer White ended last year on a bad not and it took a while for her to get her confidence back on the mound.”

When White did get going again, it helped spark the Lady Warriors and led her to a 13-win season and a 1.98 earned run average. Those stats were part of the reason she was selected TIC Player of the Year.

Still, with the Lady Warriors sitting 1-4, they needed a spark. Both Capehart and Eubanks identified the game that turned them around as a home victory over TIC champion Hobgood Academy.

“The Hobgood game most definitely turned our season around,” Eubanks said of the 8-3 victory on April 2. “They were our biggest competition in the conference and we were able to beat them fairly easily.”

Capehart said she believed the home win was important as well.

“I believe the Hobgood game played here was the first sign of a new team,” she said. “We all played with the mind-set that losing was not acceptable. From there on out, we were a winning team.”

The Lady Warriors finished 8-3 in the league and then knocked off Hobgood in the finals of the TIC tournament. The win led to Lawrence being seeded number three in the NCISAA 1-A playoffs.

“I felt confident going into the state tournament,” Nobles said. “We started the season slowly, but after that we did everything possible to position ourselves to be successful.”

In the first round of the state tourney, Lawrence beat Ridgecroft 5-3 to advance to the Final Four. Once there, the Lady Warriors rolled to a 10-0 victory over Kerr-Vance Academy.

After suffering an 8-0 loss to Cape Fear, the Warriors defeated Hobgood again, this time in the elimination round. Lawrence got back to Cape Fear, but suffered a 4-0 loss to finish as state runners-up.

“Coming in second at states was a huge achievement for us,” Capehart said. “At the beginning of the season, no one believed we could make it all the way. It took all 13 girls to beat the teams and go up against Cape Fear for the state championship.

“Our last game was a battle,” she added. “Each girl left everything on the field.”

Eubanks agreed.

“I was satisfied with coming in second during the state tournament,” she said. “Cape Fear was an excellent team and being second next to them means a lot. I was sad because I realized it was the last game I would ever play in my high school career.”

The Warriors finished the season with 19 wins.