By Carl Holcomb
The signal lights are searching the landscape for the Yellow Jackettes to emerge out of the Hive to reclaim their prominence on the softball turf with the hopes of making it back to the state tournament after a one-year hiatus.
Moorefield Softball finished last season with a record of 22-7 and was ousted from the Region II semifinals by Pendleton County.
The Yellow Jackettes will be guided by head coach Tammie Ayers in her fourth season.
As with every season there are players who have graduated and this year there are quality incoming freshmen to help get the Yellow Jackettes back on track.[private] Moorefield freshmen Emma Baker, Carmen Ketterman, Rebekah Markwood, Marissa Ratliff, Fabian Taylor, Alyssa Vetter, and Macie Zirk all have experience together playing as state champions in Little League with Southeastern Regional tournament participation in Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.
These freshmen have proven they can play at different levels and now they will look to the leadership in the high school ranks to help the softball squad reach its goals.
Moorefield seniors Savannah Kite, Tara George, Serena Redman, and Bethany See all have great skills and leadership abilities to show the younger players what steps need to be taken to play consistently at the varsity level.
Kite has been a very quick second baseman in recent years, but looks to add to her repertoire with action at first base and outfield.
Redman and See have shown good poise at first base, but will be able to rotate to other infield spots if needed.
George leads the team at the plate with consistent hitting, but has been a dominant force behind the plate as the four-year catcher in addition to finding good rhythm as a pitcher.
Markwood will be helping as a pitcher and playing mostly as a shortstop following in the footsteps of her older sister Beth Cook who plays for Potomac State College.
Baker can fill in at first base and in the outfield with her speed.
Moorefield will look to juniors Paige Crites, Trena Conner, and Bethany Smith to control the outfield spots.
Smith has one of the hardest throws as a pitcher and has experience as a catcher if the need arises.
Sophomore Kylie Crites has great defensive skills and will showcase them at second base.
Junior Sumer Flinn is a versatile player taking the mound some or even catching, but has been one of the most confident players at third base and has developed into a very strong hitter with great base running abilities to put Moorefield in scoring position right away.
Zirk may see some playing time on varsity as an infielder or a catcher.
Juniors Alexa Keplinger, Haley Myers, Haley Ours, Erica See, plus freshmen Fabiana Taylor, Carmen Ketterman, and Marissa Ratliff will all be playing outfield for the junior varsity.
Junior Katlyn Tompkins will be an infielder for both squads, while Cali Kessel will handle the catching duties for junior varsity.
Sophomore Makaleigh Snyder will provide depth as a catcher and outfielder for the junior varsity.
Alyssa Vetter will provide more depth as an infielder as a freshman for the junior varsity.
Sophomore Brittany Cost will play third base for the junior varsity.
Moorefield begins the season at home against Strasburg, Va. next Tuesday, then hosts Allegany (Md.) on Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackettes host East Hardy on March 24 and visit Baker on April 22.
Moorefield has one Class AAA squad on the regular season schedule in Jefferson, but could have more at the Bub Riggleman Tournament on April 15-16.
Moorefield added Mountain Ridge, Md. to the schedule this year with a game on the road on March 26.
There are four Class AA teams on the schedule: Petersburg, Frankfort, Keyser, and Berkeley Springs.
The Yellow Jackettes have talented defenders and hitters to collect the victories this season, plus solid pitching to create the whole package for delivery at the state tournament.
Coach Tammie Ayers Q&A
What are your goals and outlook for the season?
“I’m very optimistic. I was a little worried, because I wasn’t sure how our underclassmen were going to step up. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some strong pitching coming up. They’re looking good in the cage and hopefully the weather will cooperate next week so we can get outside.”
What was your record last year and in what ways do you improve?
“I don’t know what our record was, all I remember from last year is that Pendleton County knocked us out from going on. We’ve got to play the whole game and adjust to the pitchers who are pitching to us, their styles and deliveries. We’ve got to adjust and be able to hit better than we did last year.
Returning Starters: Tara George, Bethany Smith, Sumer Flinn, Savannah Kite. Those are the definites who will start. I’ve got Bethany See, Serena Redman. We’ve got a lot of younger players practicing hard who will make their way to a start: Kylie Crites in the infield, Trena Conner in the outfield, Paige Crites was on the varsity last year and I anticipate her being in the outfield.
How strong do you feel your infield will be this year?
“I think we will have some youth and inexperience, but these girls will be able to handle it. I will have Tara catching, she’s our number one catcher. I foresee Bethany See playing first base and Rebekah Markwood splitting time with her there. Bethany and Rebekah will be doing some pitching. Tara will be doing some pitching and Sumer Flinn will be on third base, that’s where she was last year. I’m not sure about Savannah Kite yet. Nana as we call her, she’s versatile. She does a great job at second and first base and can play in the outfield. In the outfield, I’m looking at Paige Crites, Trena Conner, and possibly Savannah Kite or Emma Baker. Emma swings a mean bat. She’s has some power and is a good little pitcher too. I look for her to earn a spot somewhere. Starting pitchers: Bethany Smith, then after that I’m not sure. It will probably be a couple of the freshmen. Tara has been pitching well in practice, but when I take her from behind the plate to pitch to the plate, I don’t know who I will put behind the plate. Macie Zirk can catch, Cali Kessel is a good catcher, and I have caught Sumer before. Bethany Smith is an awesome catcher too. I don’t have anyone in mind to be one spot only, just trying to do some versatile things and put everybody where it is best for the nine people on the field. I have a lot of confidence in our incoming freshmen, they’ve played in Georgia and Florida and have won the Southeast regional as far as junior league. This is the beginning of the Moorefield Sting team and have played together since second grade. They play tournament ball a lot. I think these girls are really gelling. The support they have for each other is phenomenal.
How do you feel about your team leadership?
I think my seniors are really going to step. My four girls are really good kids and I think that they will keep this team together and fight for victory as one.
What are the positions and contributions for each player?
“Emma Baker (9): Pitches, throwing very hard during practice; will probably see time in the outfield and/or 1st base; strong, consistent hitter.
Trena Conner (11): Showing some real dedication and working hard right now to earn a starting spot on Varsity; I predict that Trena will be one of our starting outfielders.
Brittany Cost (10): JV – 3rd base; hits the ball hard.
Kylie Crites (10): Very coachable; great defensive player at 2nd base; quick on the bases; works hard to perfect the slap hit.
Paige Crites (11): Starting outfielder last year; our goal is to keep Paige’s enthusiasm up so that her positivity will inspire her teammates.
Sumer Flinn (11): Pitches some; can catch; but will be our starting 3rd baseman because she’s not afraid of the ball (thanks to her dad, the late Mark Flinn, who drilled softball into her head from the time she could hold a ball glove and bat); strong hitter; smart on the bases.
Tara George (12): Has been pitching very well during practice but she’ll be our starting catcher as she has been for the past three years; Tara’s got a great arm so she’ll throw some people out on the bases; she hits the ball very hard; she’s smart on the bases and she’s worked hard in the weight room so I anticipate her being speedier than ever on the bases.
Alexa Keplinger (11): JV outfielder.
Cali Kessel (11): JV catcher; can hit the ball hard.
Carmen Ketterman (9): She’s our “Mighty Mini Mouse” on the team; Carmen’s been pitching very well during practice; She’s small but mighty in the outfield.
Savannah Kite (12): Savannah is a versatile defensive player; she’ll see time at 1st base, 2nd base, and possibly the outfield. She’s the speediest runner on the team; she’s the most coachable person on the team; Savannah has a positive attitude which can really make a team unite and reach difficult goals; I’ve watched her mature as a student, plater, and young lady, and I anticipate Savannah taking a major role in leadership on our team this year.
Rebekah Markwood (9): Little sis of Potomac State Lady Catamounts’ and Lady Jackets’ Beth Cook, Bekah is doing a fine job establishing herself as a good all-around athlete; she’s a strong left-handed hitter; she pitches and plays infield, primarily shortstop; she’s got speed on the bases and is a very smart base runner. I guess that’s what happens when you’re raised at the ball field (Beth was 6 and well on her way to establishing herself on the softball field when Bekah was born.) Very coachable, I anticipate Rebekah being a starter on the Varsity team.
Haley Myers (11): JV outfield
Haley Ours (11): JV outfield
Marissa Ratliff (9): JV outfield
Serena Redman (12): Hitting the ball hard in practice; will see time on the infield.
Bethany See (12): Enthusiastic and positive attitude; will contribute time as an infielder on the varsity team.
Erica See (11): JV outfield/infield
Bethany Smith (11): Most versatile player on the team; Bethany can play any position that I need her to on the field: She’s an excellent infielder. She can judge a fly ball in the outfield. She’s an mean catcher when I need her to fill that role. And she throws the ball harder than anyone on the team from the pitcher’s mound. Last year, Bethany came through with hits when we needed them. She’s got power to put it out of the park, yet she’s got the knowledge to get a base hit when we need to advance the runner. She serves as a great inspiration to her teammates. She’s very coachable.
Makaleigh Snyder (10): JV catcher and outfielder.
Fabiana Taylor (9): JV outfielder
Katlyn Tompkins (11): infielder, JV but may see some varsity playing time.
Alyssa Vetter (9): infielder; she’s been throwing the ball hard from the mound; she’s been hitting with the power in the cage.
Macie Zirk (9): catcher and infield; Macie hits the ball hard; I predict that if she keeps playing as hard as she’s been practicing, Macie will see some playing time with the Varsity squad.”
What challenges do you face?
“Just finding a spot that everybody fits into and getting that adjustment made. I think Pendleton County will be a contender, mainly because of their pitching. That little Townsend girl is a good pitcher, her and her rise ball beat us.”
What impresses you the most about your team?
“It’s their willingness to do things. They don’t stand around. I don’t have to get on them, they take the initiative to do things. They work well together and someone is always pushing another on a skill. They are always working together. It’s amazing to see. You know it is good chemistry when they want to come to the locker room as soon as the bell rings at the end of the day. I almost have to run them out of here, because they like to socialize and be together.
How important is it to have a good understanding of the fundamentals?
“If they get to this point, then they should have a good grasp of the fundamentals. There are certain things we work diligently on and coach Jodie Witmer works with them a lot in the cage. She works with their stance and how they turn their hips so they can hit the ball harder. I try to work with the pitchers and the fielding, so right now it is just the two of us.
How important is a first-pitch strike?
“Oh, very, very important, because then it is in their head and they think they are down. If they think they are down, then the second one will be a strike too. That’s another thing we have to do well this year is hitting locations when pitching.
How important is discipline at the plate?
“It is extremely important, because just because the first one is a strike, my girls can’t think that the second one is definitely going to be in and swing at anything. They’ve got to be picky and not let the pitchers and defense get in their heads.
How is the confidence level for a pitcher getting the first-strike?
“That’s a tremendous difference in the pitcher. Once they get that, then you can see them relax and take a deep breath and fire back with all that they have.
Do you utilize the small game?
“I am a firm believer in bunting, especially the sac bunt. You’ve got to be able to move those runners around the base even if it is a sacrifice and you do your job. If we need to play small ball, we will play small ball.
How much do you stress base running?
“We work on that every day. I time them to see who is the fastest and when it comes down to crunch time and there is someone on the bench who is faster than the one who just batted, I’m going to pinch run.
How crucial is it to have hustle on defense?
“It is very important. If you fall asleep, the other team is going to score run after run after run. You don’t want to let those runners advance.
How do you feel about the outfielders’ speed and ability to hit the cut-off person?
“I feel very confident in how our outfielders have been able to track the ball down for the catch. We stress to hit the cut-off. You’ve got to get them to understand that is a shorter throw and it will come with more accuracy.
How many types of pitches do your pitchers have?
“Most of them have three and Rebekah might have four. Fastball, change-up, and a lot of them can throw a rise ball. Bethany was throwing four last year. We can practice against it now.
How important is communication between the pitcher and catcher?
“They have to work together as one. If the pitcher is not throwing the sign she is given, then the catcher has no way to do her thing and get the ball where it needs to go. She doesn’t just setup behind the plate, but has to know where the ball is coming.
How do you feel about the competition for the Potomac Valley Conference?
“I think it is pretty good. East Hardy was very young last year, but I think they will be okay. I’m very anxious to see how Ashley Dove does with them. I think she’s going to be a really good coach for them this year. I will miss seeing Calvin [Mongold] out there, but I think Ashley will be fine with them.
Pendleton County will be strong this year.
Do you have any significant tournaments or new teams this year?
“We will be doing the Bub Riggleman Tournament. I think this will be the 16th year, but it wasn’t always officially called the Bub Riggleman to begin with, but once he passed away they renamed it the Bub Riggleman Memorial Tournament. We are playing Mountain Ridge and we haven’t played Jefferson before, except in the Bub Riggleman here. We picked up Allegany again. I’m glad to see them on our schedule again. They aren’t having the Gene Baker Tournament this year. This schedule will help us prepare for the playoffs and we picked up Keyser again. Mountain Ridge will give us a run for our money. I think it will prepare us for sectionals, regionals, and we will be back in Vienna.”
What is your team motto?