Ocean City Today

For most Lady Seahawks, softball number-one sport

By Managing Editor, Lisa Capitelli | Mar 22, 2018
Photo by: Lisa Capitelli “I just hope to keep improving my pitching game and hitting, increasing my batting average, and as a team I hope we can work together,” said Stephen Decatur junior pitcher Lexi Black.

(March 23, 2018) The Stephen Decatur softball team is a young group, but the Lady Seahawks have years of experience playing the game.

“The girls are ‘softball’ players, meaning it is their number-one sport, which we have struggled with the last few years,” Decatur Coach Heather Patnode said. “Most of the girls play on travel teams and play together.”

Patnode, now in her fifth season as head coach, has 12 players on her roster. Eight of the girls competed last year.

“We are extremely excited for the season, as we hope for a more competitive year with so many returners – starters and members,” she said. “They have been very ‘gung-ho’ about playing and trying to be competitive with our top-notch teams in the conference.

“We have the ability and skill to become a team that schools look forward to playing,” Patnode continued. “We are still a young team with only two seniors, which means more years of great play to come.”

During the offseason, Patnode said some girls took lessons and practiced to get ready for spring ball with Decatur.

“It has allowed us to strengthen our hitting. I think we lacked in this a little last year and the girls have showed the improvements over the last two scrimmages,” Patnode said. “We also struggled last year with starting positions due to many different reasons, but we have set up a very solid defense this year. [We have] options should we change pitchers or any other reason that would cause a player to miss and/or need to be moved.”

Patnode said all of the returners would make an impact on the team this season.

Junior Lexi Black is back on the mound for the Seahawks. She earned First Team Bayside South Conference accolades for her performance during the 2017 season.

A member of the team for three years, when Black is not pitching she will play third base.

“I just hope to keep improving my pitching game and hitting, increasing my batting average, and as a team I hope we can work together,” Black said. “I’m going to try my best to throw my best game … and always keep a positive attitude.”

She hopes to lead the team on the mound and be a role model for the younger players.

“I think we’ll be really competitive with some teams this year,” she said. “I think we’re doing pretty good. This [is] a good start compared to last year.”

Receiving Black’s pitches will be junior catcher Alex Richwalski.

Sophomore center fielder Amber Whittaker also returns for Decatur.

“I have not seen a girl that can cover more ground then her,” Patnode said of Whittaker. “She is a solid defender and amazing, vocal leader … Due to her on-base percentage we are looking forward to starting her as the No. 9 hitter.”

As a freshman last year, Sierra Eisemann broke the Maryland Public School state softball record for stolen bases in a single season. She finished the year with 47. She was presented Bayside South Second Team honors.

This year as a sophomore, Eisemann is the team’s No. 1 hitter and starting second baseman. She will also pitch.

Senior captain Emma Hamilton-Blackford has been a successful utility player, Patnode said.

“She is a versatile player that we can literally put anywhere and she will be a huge impact on the success of our team,” she said.

Patnode said she is looking forward to seeing what the new players can do, including freshmen shortstop Brooklyn Pugner and second/third baseman Katie Wrench, and sophomore outfielder Erin Hurley.

“I was pretty excited when I found out that I made the team,” Wrench said. “I’m hoping to get more experience and try to give my all and to be a help to the team.

“I’m very excited to see how it turns out for my first year,” she continued. “We’ve come a long way. We know more about our strengths and weaknesses, how we play with certain people and the plays.”

Patnode said the main goal this season is to finish with a better record than last year. In 2017, the Seahawks went 9-10. They lost in the second round of the 3A East Region tournament.

“We will be more competitive and win games people don’t expect us to,” Patnode said. “We would love to make it past the second round of playoffs, as our division is tough and it will show how much we have improved over the last year. Each girl has set some individual goals as well as team goals that we look forward to seeing them reach.”

To be successful, Black said it is important for the players to bond and come together as a team, to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to do their best every time they step on the field.

Since there is no JV coach this year, Patnode will work with both teams. Assistant Coach Cheryl Harte will step in as head coach of the varsity squad when Patnode is with the JV team.

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