MONROE – The Parkwood High softball team is the new kid on the block but the Rebels have to be considered one of the favorites to win the Southern Carolina Conference and possibly contend for a Class 3A state championship as the high school softball season kicks off next week.
Parkwood has made the jump from Class 2A to Class 3A a year after a solid wire-to-wire season that saw the Rebels win the Class 2A State Championship last spring.
Parkwood finished the 2017 season with a 27-3 record after going 10-0 in the Rocky River Conference. MaxPreps had the Rebels as the No. 1 ranked team in the state regardless of classification at the end of the season.
A year ago, Parkwood won 18-straight games during one stretch and the Rebels return most of their starters. Parkwood lost just four seniors to graduation.
“We do expect a lot from them,” second-year head coach Tim Speakman said. “My expectations are always high.”
But Speakman said winning a conference or state championship isn’t on the team’s radar screen as the team prepares for the March 1 season opener against CATA. Part of that thinking stems from the fact the Southern Carolina Conference is balanced from top to bottom.
“We are not talking about any state championships or district championships,” Speakman said. “We are talking one game at a time. We’ve got to get back to where we were at the end of last year. We have to get there quicker and that starts with a lot of hard work here at the beginning of the season. We have a tough conference, a very tough conference. But we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Caroline Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the state a year ago and is back for her senior season. Caroline Ruth was 22-2 a year ago with a 1.00 ERA and the senior recorded 226 strikeouts while walking just 33. Opponents managed just 80 hits in Ruth’s 146.1 innings in the circle.
Ruth was also a force at the plate as she hit .384 with 21 RBIs and four home runs.
“Caroline is amazing and she did an outstanding job for us last year,” Speakman said. “She worked very hard in the weight room in the offseason and she is at a point where she has a couple more miles per hour on her fastball. Her bat is phenomenal and she is swinging the bat well right now. We are expecting big things out of her this year.”
Caroline Ruth said that last year’s team chemistry has carried over to this season.
“We clicked together as a team,” Caroline Ruth said. “Now that we know what it feels like to win a state championship, we want it more. But we can’t take anything for granted because other teams will want to beat us a badly as we want to beat other teams.”
Natalie Ruth, Caroline’s younger sister, batted .383 with 10 RBIs last season and the sophomore may see time in the outfield and behind the plate.
“Natalie played a big role for us in the outfield last year,” Speakman said. “She is going to play a big role for us not only in the outfield but also behind the plate. She is good catcher and that is her primary position but we had a couple in front of her last year.”
Junior Sarah Harkins is back after hitting .480 with 20 RBIs, while senior Mary Pierce Barnes also returns after hitting .475 with 23 RBIs. Sophomore Chloe Hardy hit .410 a year ago and led the Rebels with 25 RBIs. Amber Parker (.375), Allie Griffin (.381), Taylor Breidt (.286) and Courtney Fink (.295) all bring experience back to the lineup.
But Speakman said the starting lineup is not set in stone.
“I’ll be honest, everybody is fighting for positions,” Speakman said. “I told all the girls that just because you played a certain position last year that doesn’t guarantee a position this year.”