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SHALLOTTE—For years, students and parents have parked their vehicles beyond the left-field fence at West Brunswick High School’s softball field with little fear of property damage.
But anyone who parks there this year is asking for trouble. These Lady Trojans can flat out swing the sticks.
West Brunswick coach Joe Noble said his players hit 21 balls over the fence during three days of batting practice last week. And it’s not just one or two girls who are going deep.
“You look down our lineup and seven of our nine can hit it out at any time,” Noble said. “People who know our team when they look down our lineup they’re going to say, ‘Oh my God,’ because this bunch can hit.”
Leah Fulford, Stacy Jackson, Amber Rampero and Carly White each hit home runs last season and Heather Carter, Emily Gore and Anna Hart are fully capable of joining the dinger club in 2008.
Gore, who bats right-handed, recently hit an opposite-field shot onto the soccer field beyond the right-field fence.
Last Friday, West Brunswick baseball coach Mike Alderson hung a net beyond the center-field fence to protect players on an adjacent field.
“This is for Carly,” Alderson said of White, who hit four homers as a freshman and is a threat to dent a car hood or smash a windshield whenever she steps into the batter’s box.
Noble, who is beginning his 12th season as West Brunswick softball coach, said hitting should not be an issue with this year’s team.
“They’re not swinging for the fence, but they’re generating so much bat speed and their mechanics are just right that the ball is jumping off their bat. (Assistant coach) Jeff Carter has been working with them for the last two years. We have made a huge jump in our hitting.”
Of course, there’s a lot more to softball than hitting and West Brunswick seems to have that covered as well.
Carter, a senior, and White, a sophomore, are expected to share pitching duties this season. Noble said both girls will pitch every game and whichever one is not pitching will play first base.
“We’ve got two of the top pitchers in the area, and we’re going to use both of them.”
In the last three years as West Brunswick’s primary pitcher, Carter has racked up 22 wins, 241 strikeouts and 367 innings pitched. She was an all-county and all-conference selection as a sophomore and junior.
But as good as Carter has been throughout her career, Noble found out in last year’s playoffs the importance of having a second pitcher.
In a second-round game against Wilson Hunt, West Brunswick took a 1-0 lead into the last inning but gave up nine runs and was eliminated with a 9-4 loss.
“Heather did a good job, but at the end of the game they started timing her and we didn’t have anybody to go to,” Noble said.
“We should have had Carly a little more ready last year. It taught us a big lesson. We’re not going to get caught in that situation this year.”
West Brunswick’s infield will include junior Stacy Jackson at second base and senior Amber Rampero at shortstop. Fulford, a senior, or junior Anna Hart will catch. Gore, a junior, or Fulford will play third base.
Rampero was the team’s leading hitter last season with a .403 batting average, 10 doubles, 17 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
Carter batted .303 with 14 runs scored; Fulford hit .286 with 11 RBIs; Hart hit .370 with 16 RBIs; and White batted .238 with six doubles, four homers, 12 RBIs and 15 runs.
West Brunswick’s outfielders are juniors Lucia Bowling, Courtney Clewis, Alley Marshall, Gore and Hart and sophomore Kristy Vance.
“Right now at this point we are so far ahead of where we’ve ever been. Most of them have been playing together since they were 12 years old. They played together the last two summers,” Noble said.
“Chemistry is better than it’s ever been, coachability is better than it’s ever been, skill level is better than it’s ever been. That tells you how good I feel about this team.”
West Brunswick finished 5-7 in the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference and 11-14 overall last season. Noble said he expects a lot more this year.
“We have a great shot at winning the conference and going deep in the playoffs. The potential is there,” he said.
“In looking at what people lost and what they had JV-wise coming up, Hoggard is probably going to be the team to beat in our conference because they have just about everybody back from last year.”
Noble said New Hanover, Laney and Ashley have lost enough talent that the Lady Trojans can overtake them in the league standings. West Brunswick remains light years ahead of fellow 3A schools Jacksonville and White Oak.
“I feel like it’s going to come down to us and Hoggard for the conference championship,” he said.
“This is by far the most talented bunch we’ve been able to put out on the field, and they are complete players in all aspects.
“They’ve played together enough to where they know where each other is going to be. I don’t see a weakness right now. I think we’re ready. All we have to do is go out and perform.”
Doug Rutter is sports editor of the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.