ELIZABETHTOWN — Coach Patty Evers, entering her sophomore season — this time around — with the Lady Eagles varsity softball team, is looking for some marked improvement over last season’s 5-13 squad. But it will have to come against a new slate of conference opponents, save one.
East Bladen will open play in the Four County Conference on Friday when they host Union.
This is the first week the Lady Eagles have even broke out the softball equipment, thanks to the fact that Evers and the East Bladen basketball team ventured far into the Class 2-A state playoffs before falling in the East Region semifinals. But they are not as far behind as they could have been, compliments of Mother nature.
Most teams in the region have had difficulty getting on their field and numerous games have been postponed or canceled due to rain and cold, so the Lady Eagles are expected to catch up quickly.
Last season, East Bladen put together a solid late-season push that has Evers hopeful.
“We were much improved towards the end of the season,” she said. “And one-run games against Whiteville and South Columbus (in the old Waccamaw Conference) gave the girls much confidence …”
That, combined with the fact that Evers has plenty of experience returning, could bode well for the Lady Eagles — especially on defense.
And perhaps the strength of the East Bladen defense will be up the middle, where catcher Lexi Dawson will be the Lady Eagles’ field general. Evers said Dawson, who hit .333 last season, is already attracting college interest.
In the circle for East Bladen will be pitcher Miller Heustess, who twirled most of the Lady Eagles’ innings last season.
At shortstop will be sophomore Abby Ward, a starter from last season, and at second base is expected to be Emily Scott, who is versatile enough to play almost anywhere.
And in center will be sophomore Lacey Suggs, a five-tool athlete who hit .480 last season as a freshman. She could also see some innings in the circle for Evers.
First base will again be anchored by Abbey Norris.
The Lady Eagles lost third-sacker Brianna Graham and left-fielder Sharmayne Campbell to graduation, but Evers has high hopes for newcomers Anna Brewer, a junior, and freshman Tolonda Coston.
“I think they will make a significant impact at the plate and in the field,” Evers said.
As for the new conference, Evers said she sees the competition shaping up as pretty strong.
“I see West Bladen and Trask as the front-runners, with Midway and Union being pretty good,” she said. “Overall, I like our chances for improvement and I think our defense will much better.”