The 2016 success of the Lady Indians softball team is unprecedented, according to head coach Dave Poffenberger.
It doesn’t take much to believe him, especially when you look at the team’s overall numbers and record, evidenced by the school’s first-ever trip to the Elite 8 in Columbus.
Every team enters its season in hopes of making it there. If there’s any heartbreak in the season, it was falling by a combined 3-0 score in two games in Columbus. Team star pitcher and Division-I prospect Emma Whitfield had the season of her life, as just a sophomore. Poffenberger says he knew she was special when she shut out Buford, an annual state title team, in 2015 as a freshman.
“She’s had several D-I schools looking at her,” exclaims Poffenberger. “Her work ethic is just unbelievable…we can’t see the ceiling for her yet.”
The Lady Indians were 24-6, region 7-AAAA runner-up and advanced easily to the Elite 8 before falling to Central and Chapel Hill in successive games. Whitfield was a large part of that success, going 24-5 overall as a pitcher, registering a microscopic 0.92 ERA and 232 strikeouts. She also helped with her offense, collecting two homeruns and 17 RBI on the year.
Teammates Brynn Roberts (.347 avg, 16 runs) and Natalie Morgan (.348 avg, 11 RBI, 17 R, 11 SB) also had great seasons for Stephens County, who finished 9-3 within the region, falling only to rivals Jefferson all three times, including 6-3 in the region championship game. The two prior losses during the regular season to Jefferson came by 1-0 scores, including once in nine innings.
“It was truly a team effort,” says Poffenberger of the girls’ success. “Just really pleased in the season they had this year.”
With almost all of the key players returning next year, the Elite 8 experience in Columbus will pay dividends for next year.
“I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year next year,” says Poffenberger. “We’re gonna fill a couple empty spots and make a run at it again!”