Softball program adjusts to changes in preparation for the 2020 season

Coaches+Carter+Holden+%28left%29+and+Randy+Hill+%28right%29+watch+the+varsity+softball+players+play+defense+during+an+away+game+at+Rockbridge+County+High+School+last+season.+Photo+courtesy+of+Hannah+Brown.+
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Softball program adjusts to changes in preparation for the 2020 season

Coaches Carter Holden (left) and Randy Hill (right) watch the varsity softball players play defense during an away game at Rockbridge County High School last season. Photo courtesy of Hannah Brown.

Coaches Carter Holden (left) and Randy Hill (right) watch the varsity softball players play defense during an away game at Rockbridge County High School last season. Photo courtesy of Hannah Brown.

Coaches Carter Holden (left) and Randy Hill (right) watch the varsity softball players play defense during an away game at Rockbridge County High School last season. Photo courtesy of Hannah Brown.

Coaches Carter Holden (left) and Randy Hill (right) watch the varsity softball players play defense during an away game at Rockbridge County High School last season. Photo courtesy of Hannah Brown.

Karleigh Gentry, Sports Page Editor

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For two consecutive years, the HHS varsity softball team has suffered from winless seasons, which has changed the atmosphere of the softball program. 

In comparison to last year’s team, the varsity softball team isn’t just losing players because of graduation, but they’re also losing former players and coaches because of personal reasons. Both seniors Grace Shifflett and Kailey Pitsenbarger began playing softball for the JV team their freshman years and were pulled up to varsity as juniors; however, for Shifflett, continuing to play softball is a decision she still has to make. 

“I am unsure if whether I’ll continue with my fourth year of softball mainly because I was unhappy with last season’s progress and while I am willing to work for my team, I am unsure that my team will work for each other,” Shifflett said. 

Sophomore Juju Butler, who managed the varsity softball team as a seventh grader at Thomas Harrison Middle School. She pitched for the JV team as an eighth grader and played center field for the varsity team last year as a freshman. Butler has decided to quit softball after playing since she was eight years old for the Harrisonburg Little League Association (HLLA). 

“I am not playing softball this year because I am doing volleyball for the first part of the school year and I am also taking harder classes and AP testing season overlaps with softball season,” Butler said.

After the resignation of former head coach Susie Bocock prior to the 2019 season, current head coach Randy Hill took over the program and added three assistant coaches: Carter Holden, Katie Henson and Mikala Wolter. However, in preparation for the 2020 season, Hill and Henson are the only remaining coaches.

“My favorite part about coaching was building the coach, player relationships with the girls, which the program really needs. I’ll miss continuing to help and watch the girls grow as players and young adults,” Holden said. 

Although some players and coaches who were involved with the team last year are not returning, other players are planning to participate once again, one of whom is senior Kiara Richardson. 

“I don’t play for those players [that are quitting the team],” Richardson said. “I play for the love of the game.” 

In addition to Richardson, senior Lydia Grogg also plans to continue playing, as this will be her last year to be a high school softball player. 

“[I am going to play] because I want to finish my last year of softball strong,” Grogg said. 

Even though the varsity team is facing many changes, Holden’s connections to HLLA cause him to believe we will have a strong JV team that in future years will form a strong varsity team. 

“The relationship between HLLA and the high school athletics are vital, especially in the state that the program is in; [therefore,] it is extremely important for the HHS program to interact and be involved with HLLA and just showing a presence goes a long way with your younger generations [for them] to either throw the glove back in the bat bag or continue to want to improve,” Holden said. “Until the gap [is closed] between the two organizations, I’m afraid each year will continue at the same pace it is currently in.”

Despite constant changes he has faced since becoming the head coach, Hill still hopes to get the program on the right track, starting with pre-season workouts and practices.

“My goals for this upcoming season are for this team to continue to work hard and play together, focus on building more confidence in this program, and playing the game at a more competitive level. [I also hope we can] build more unity and work on supporting each other,” Hill said. “Even though we didn’t win any games last year, I still had opposing coaches tell me how much we’ve improved. We still need to be more confident and have fun. With returning players from last year, we should have a decent team. [To prepare for the 2020 season,] off season workouts and conditioning start in a couple of weeks and I want to get [the players] outside while the weather is still good.”

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