Surry Knights load up on area softball talent
DOBSON — As Surry Community Collegeâ€™s young softball program aims to expand its recruiting reach and move up the junior college ranks, coach Amber Watson Reid also wants to maintain strong ties to the base of schools in the Knightsâ€™ neighborhood.
Reid once again tapped local high school programs with her latest recruiting class. Signing letters of intent to join the Knights for 2012-13 so far are Ivey Johnson from Surry Central, Courtney Barnes from Starmount, and Brianna Bratcher and Emily Worley from West Stokes.
Johnson is a catcher. Barnes is a utility player/first baseman. Bratcher has experience in the outfield, while Worley is a pitcher and middle infielder.
Surry Community College also has signed Candace Newsome from Reagan and Holly Adams from East Forsyth. There could be more signees of players from Surry and Yadkin counties this spring or summer, Reid said.
â€śWhen we first started this program, we believed in the local area and the response has been great over the last few years from our local kids,â€ť Reid said while attending Johnsonâ€™s signing day ceremony in February. â€śWe are starting to gain more interest there. We do have some good coaches such as Coach Craddock (from Surry Central) who have helped us out and let us know who are the key seniors are coming up. That has been really helpful in helping us narrow our search for what we need.â€ť
Surry started its program in 2009. The first two seasons, the Knights had barely enough players to field a team. Last season, that number climbed to 12. All three years, Surry finished fourth in Region X.
This year, Surry began with a roster of 15 players â€“ seven from Surry County, four from Yadkin and one each from Wilkes, Davidson and Forsyth counties. The 15th player hails from Beckley, WV.
Reidâ€™s philosophy has been simple. She looks for pitching, offense and versatility on defense. If a player can swing the bat consistently well, Reid will find a place for them on the field.
â€śOur pitchers are going to do their part at holding off batters, but weâ€™ve got to do our part and score runs, too,â€ť Reid said. â€śI do try to look for hitters as much as possible.â€ť
Reid has signed some solid bats for the 2012-13 campaign. Johnson has been Surry Centralâ€™s starting catcher the past few seasons. She hit .283 in 2011 but missed several games due to a hand injury. Sheâ€™ll bring on-the-field smarts to the lineup and will be expected to back-up catcher Jessica White next season when White â€“ a Starmount graduate — becomes a sophomore.
â€śIvey is certainly a team leader and she does a great job behind the plate,â€ť Surry Central coach Glenn Craddock said. â€śShe has a lot of natural talent and smarts. Those type of players are certainly rare. Her work ethic out on the ball field is tremendous. She is a sweet kid and would do anything you ask of her.â€ť
Johnson had pondered going to Appalachian State in the fall but opted for Surry when she learned sheâ€™d have a chance to continue playing softball. She hopes to study to become a pediatric radiation therapist. Though playing catcher is one of the roughest positions on the field, Johnson enjoys being behind the plate.
â€śI love being able to see and be in every play,â€ť she said.
Like Johnson, Barnes has been a softball lifer. She has had a lot of talent ahead of her at Starmount the past few seasons, but she started to assert herself at the varsity level last year, especially at the plate. Barnes had a walk-off home run in a win over Elkin and hit another long ball in the conference tournament semifinals against Forbush.
Barnes could be one of the centerpiece players for the Rams this spring as the program adjusts to the graduation of six players plus the loss of another starter due to injury.
Barnes could spend time behind the plate or in the outfield. She is a natural first baseman but that spot this spring at Starmount likely will fall back to Rachel Wagoner, who was all-conference there a year ago.
â€śWe are looking for big things from Courtney,â€ť Starmount coach Heather Courts said. â€śShe can play everywhere. We are expecting big things out of her bat.â€ť
Bratcher, also a standout on the Wildcatsâ€™ basketball team, batted a West Stokes-best .477 last spring. She played in 25 games, finishing with 42 hits, three doubles and two triples. She stole 26 bases and batted home 17 runs. She was only caught stealing twice.
Bratcher led the Wildcats in runs, crossing the plate 32 times.
Worley batted a robust .345 a year ago. She tied for the team lead in RBIs with 35. She had eight doubles and seven stolen bases. Worley pitched in nine games last year, mostly as a reliever, posting a 1.94 ERA. She started once, against Bishop McGuinness, earning 11 strikeouts and only one hit in a five-inning whitewash.
Surry Community College will host this yearâ€™s Region X Division 2 tournament. The event takes place May 4-6 in Dobson.