Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Prince George Softball Impressive In Scrimmage
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Mar 14, 2014, 20:05

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE The Lady Royals softball team is unlike some of the other teams around the area. While Prince George is certainly talented and has the ability the contend with anyone they may face, there is also an uncertainty because of the lack of experience lining their roster.

The Lady Royals have a 13-women roster which has just just three seniors on it, meaning they will need the younger players to not only improve but be counted on to deliver in clutch situations. However, if Prince George's final scrimmage game before the season starts is any indication, the Lady Royals have nothing to worry about.

Facing off against a Lee-Davis team which is known for having a strong pitching staff, the Lady Royals didn't waste much time in plating runs in the bottom of the first inning. Lead-off hitter Casey Abernethy grounded out to start the game, but sophomore McKenzie Barlow worked a eight-pitch at bat before singling to left field.

Barlow's single was followed by senior Whitney Clements' opposite-field RBI-double. Yet, the Royals' inning would not be complete without two additional RBI-singles by both Haleigh Edwards and Madison Barlow. The early three runs set the tone for the rest of the game as Prince George rolled to an 8-3 victory in nine innings of play.

"We're looking for our two sophomore pitchers to hit their spots and let our defense go to work," manager Pat Waguespack said after the game. "Early in the year with the scrimmages, they've done well so far, but it's a long season. We're still trying to sort some things out and they need to get their arms in shape."

If Barlow's arm wasn't 100 percent in shape during the scrimmage, future opponents should be weary of facing her when it is. The sophomore right-hander struggled in the first inning by walking the first hitter she faced before being bailed out by a solid defensive play to get a double-play.

But from that point on, Barlow was dominant.

She continually hit her spots on each corner of the plate while also changing the eye levels of the hitter on every swing. The changes in location coupled with the pitch selection left many of the Lee-Davis batters out of sync as she forced a lot of pop-outs.

Yet, her best inning may have been the fourth where she displayed a little more pop in her fastball en route to striking out two in the frame, finishing her night with a line that included five innings pitchers, two hits, three strikeouts and two unearned runs.

"Confidence is big for all aspects of the game and certainly she built a little of it as she pitched," Waguespack said. "I was really proud that she was able to get five innings in."

But Waguespack also had to be happy with the team-wide hitting display he received which was led by Clements.

The Francis Marion University commit started the rally in the first inning and her teammates followed suit behind her. While the coaching staff expects a lot out of Clements, the team knows that others will need to step up during the course of the season which made the scrimmage performance all the more important.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

Prince George saw six different players drive in runs including the eventual dagger runs off a opposite-field single from Maddy Martin in the bottom of the eighth inning. The offensive display was enough to impress the team's manager.

"Well we have high expectations for Whitney and I know she has high expectations for herself, but this is a game that even though we expect Whitney to do a lot, we are going to have to call on a lot of different people," Waguespack said. "It's a team game and it can't always be just that one person you go to. We had a lot of people make contributions today and that's very important."

It's also important to have a player with an ability to play multiple positions while doing so at a quality level and that's just what the Lady Royals have in senior Mandy Almarode.

Almarode demonstrated her ability to play in multiple positions throughout the game as she switched from centerfield to catcher and back while doing so with an energetic passion that helped awake her whole team. But she didn't just do a good job on the field.

The senior also produced at the plate, scalding two doubles on the night while driving in two runs. Almarode may wear her emotions on her sleeve, but it's the all-out effort she gives in every at-bat or on the receiving end of every pitch thrown by her pitcher which is contagious for the rest of the team.

"Mandy is one of our seniors and she did a nice job," Waguespack said. "But Maddy, another one of our seniors also got a couple of hits as well. The seniors held up the early part of the bargain ... we're looking to the seniors and asking them to step up."

While it's difficult to put much stock in one game, especially a scrimmage, but the Lady Royals' seniors and youngsters each showed an ability to come through in clutch situations to give the team confidence heading into the start of the season.

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