Youth will have to lead the way for Lady Falcons
By Drake Horton
Outside of basketball, one of the most stable programs over the past decade or more is the Darlington softball program, and this year is no different.
Coming off a season where the Lady Falcons came up just short of making it back to the lower-state championship, Darlington looks to grow, improve and move further this year than it did last year. That, however, might be a little easier said than done this year as the Lady Falcons, who despite returning starting pitcher Madie Andrews, do not have a single senior after having seven last year.
Instead, the team will be introducing a ton of new players, including two eighth-graders and one-ninth grader who are starting.
“It’s going to be a learning year; we lost seven seniors,” Darlington head coach Tim Wiley said. “We did get the pitcher back, which is big, but other than shortstop everybody is new, so it’s going to be a good year.”
The first step in helping with that learning curve is simply going to be game experience. While these girls are talented, most have not had the opportunity to play at the varsity level yet.
“We just have to get some games under our belt,” Wiley said. “We’ve played one tournament so far; we’ve just got to get some games.
It’ll be a slow start to the year, but we got some good, young players so I look halfway through the season for them to get a lot better.”
The biggest lesson that Wiley believes his girls must learn is how to adapt to the speed of the game.
“Most of these are younger kids so they have not got to the speed of the varsity game, but they’re athletic and the more they see the better they will get at it. We have Madie on the mound, so that is going to keep us in all of the games. We just have to score enough runs to win and play defense.”
But while the girls learn, Wiley has realized that he must learn as well.
He must learn that while this group of Lady Falcons is talented there will be some youth mistakes and he is going to have to be patient. “It’s a learning year,” Wiley said.
Despite the youth and learning curve, Wiley still believes that his team will be right in the thick of the region championship when the season comes to an end.
“We’re going to make a run, we’re going to be in the region hunt just because we do have good pitching and when I say patience, it’s just kids being where they’re supposed to be and executing,” Wiley said. “That’s the key, executing.”