Written by Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University softball team hit its high and low points of the 2013 season, including winning five of six games from Mar. 23-Apr. 2, on route to a 10-20 overall record.
"We had a talented group of players and it was satisfying as a coach to see them develop as a team," said third-year Head Coach Duste Grawrock. "Although we didn't reach our goal of nationals, I'm proud of everybody's effort and attitude this year."
In its first year as a provisional member of the NCAA Division III, Southern Virginia accomplished a first as senior pitcher McKenzy Mackay (Kaysville, Utah) and sophomore catcher Sarah Edwards (Phoenix, Ariz.) both garnered Capital One Academic All-District honors— the first two softball scholar-athletes to earn in the award in program history.
Third-year hurler Mackay led the pitching staff in 2013 in wins (7), ERA (4.28), innings pitched (109.2), complete games (13) and strikeouts (100) this season. She added a team-high two home runs and 12 RBI offensively.
Mackay also etched her name in the softball record books ranking first in program history in career strikeouts (295), complete games (39), innings pitched (317.2) and games started (52).
"I've coached McKenzy [Mackay] since she was a freshman, and she has always been our rock in the circle," said Grawrock. "She had a phenomenal senior year and will be sorely missed."
Four-year Knight Tome ranked fifth on the team with nine RBIs and sixth in total hits (15) and runs (11) while third baseman Harmon finished seventh in hits with 14.
"Laura [Tome] filled a big hole for us this year moving to the outfield after being behind the plate the last two years. She always put the team first and did the little things that didn't always show up in the stats," said Grawrock. "Sara [Harmon] is our emotional leader and did a great job at third base."
In her only season at Southern Virginia, Falevai started in 27 of the 28 contests and led the squad in batting average (.433), slugging percentage (.687), on-base percentage (.525), doubles (10) and RBIs (19) while ranking second in home runs (1) and fielding percentage (.955).
"Malia added some needed power to the middle of our order," said Grawrock. "I was particularly impressed with her consistent defensive display."
2012 USCAA Honorable Mention selection Rogers manned the shortstop position the past two seasons while finishing third in RBI (6) and fourth in stolen bases (4) and doubles (3) in her senior campaign.
"Shortstop is a highly scrutinized position in softball, but Dinah [Rogers] had no problem stepping up to the challenge and flourishing at it," said Grawrock.
Edwards, who started all 30 contests behind the plate, was a captain behind the dish for the Knights. She led the infield with a .994 fielding percentage while ranking second on the squad in RBI (18), home runs (1) and on-base percentage (.381) and third in stolen bases (7) and slugging percentage (.483).
In her two years at Southern Virginia, she holds all-time records in career doubles (14), RBI (39), stolen bases (15) and fielding percentage (.986) while ranking second in hits (59).
"Not enough can be said for Sarah's daily grind at catcher the last two years," said Grawrock. "She filled the leader role near the backstop and ignited our offense on many occasions."
Left fielder Cha. Hegsted, who started all 30 games, served as the leadoff hitter and eclipsed the program's single-season stolen bases record after swiping 12 bags in 2013. She also registered a team-high 25 runs scored and ranked second with a .330 batting average.
Che. Hegsted ranked second on the squad in doubles (9), stolen bases (11) and slugging percentage (.488) while placing third in batting average (.326), runs scored (17), hits (28), on-base percentage (.348) and RBIs (12).
"Both Chance and Cheyenne brought a different dynamic to the team," said Grawrock. "Chance was a threat on the base paths and led off the lineup. Cheyenne was in the heart of our order, hitting in the gaps and driving in runs."
According to Grawrock, sophomore Annie Biggs (Gilbert, Ariz.), freshman Katie Evans (Grays Lake, Idaho) and junior Marva Warndahl (Woodland, Wash.) were significant contributors to the Knights' success on-the-field.
Warndahl led the defense with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage from the outfield, Biggs was the number-two starting pitcher finishing with three wins and rookie utility player Evans ended with a solid .235 batting average in her first year.
"Everybody played a role and contributed to our team each game as we developed into a cohesive unit," said Grawrock.
After starting the 2013 campaign with three consecutive losses, Southern Virginia earned its first season victory in a 3-2 battle over Bluefield College at home on Feb. 25 on route to a three-game winning streak with a twin bill sweep of USCAA-foe Washington Adventist (14-1 and 13-1) on Mar. 1 at The Fields.
In game one against the Shock, Mackay and Edwards combined for a no-hit performance.
The Knights dropped seven of their next nine contests, although the two wins—an 8-4 advantage at Eastern Mennonite on Mar. 5 and the 7-5 extra innings win at WVU-Tech on Mar. 8—were victories over eventual 20-plus game winners.
Southern Virginia hit another six-game skid before winning five of six highlighted by a 4-1, 12-4 road doubleheader sweep of future Capital Athletic Conference-foe Wesley on Mar. 23. The Knights also split with Mary Baldwin and took two from USCAA-affiliate Maine-Presque Isle during the stretch.
"Our most complete day as a team was probably when we defeated Wesley twice on its own field," said Grawrock. "We stayed focused on the task-at-hand after a long road trip."
To close out the year, the Knights dropped its final seven matchups, including a one-run 4-3 walk-off loss at Davis & Elkins on Apr. 8, despite a game-tying two-run home run by Rogers in the top of the seventh.
Southern Virginia softball registered a 6-8 home record in its second season playing at The Fields while also posting a 2-4 mark in games decided by two runs or less.
"After reflecting on the season, there are right decisions I think I made and things that I look back on and think I could've done differently," said Grawrock. "But, I really enjoyed the camaraderie of our team and coaching such a great group of top-notch scholar-athletes."
Entering 2014, softball will join the Capital Athletic Conference with a full conference schedule. Future CAC-opponents Salisbury University and Christopher Newport University have earned bids this season to the 2013 NCAA Division III Softball Championship bracket set to begin May 9.
"It's a great opportunity for our softball program to join the CAC," said Grawrock. "We'll do our best to prepare ourselves and show that we can compete and win."