The Matoaca Warriors, led by pitcher Jessica McCabe are on a warpath this season – to win the Central District and beyond. Armed by McCabe, the team’s pitcher and ace, the Warriors are also skilled on both the offensive and defensive sides of the diamond. McCabe, who is rebounding from a season-ending injury last year, has helped get Matoaca off to a good start.
“I have never coached a kid that’s worked as hard to get themselves to where they were,” said Scott Driskill, head softball coach. “She knows what she needs to do and has a great softball sense.”
So far, McCabe has pitched the Warriors to a 3-2 start. The two losses came at the hands of Dominion District contenders Cosby and Monacan by one run each. Matoaca has defeated Midlothian, Meadowbrook and Colonial Heights. Two weeks ago against Meadowbrook, McCabe twirled a no-hitter, winning 13-0. One week later, the junior came back and pitched a perfect game while striking out 12 Colonials by a 10-0 count. McCabe possesses a 1.97 ERA. The junior has struck out 48 batters in 32 innings pitched.
“A good defense is really important in softball,” said McCabe. “It’s much more comfortable on the mound knowing that your team has great chemistry and they are going to back you up no matter what.”
Team chemistry and defense is something that Driskill has worked with his Warriors on incessantly, stating that they probably practice their defensive skills more than their hitting skills.
“Even if your pitcher is going out there and striking out 10 or 12 batters,” Driskill explained. “That’s still six to eight balls that have to be knocked down and plays have to be made.”
The team chemistry part is managed by the girls themselves, but also through a laser tag team-building exercise that Driskill has employed the past few seasons.
“I told them if they were angry, or upset, or had any aggression to get it all out there, and to shoot the heck out of each other,” said Driskill. “It’s a ton of fun and has served us well.”
After losing McCabe for the season last year after a 5-0 start, when Warriors junior sustained what is called a Lisfranc injury, (a painful injury in which the toes are fractured or dislocated and turned in the opposite direction of which they should be) Matoaca went onto lose in the Central District tournament to Prince George, falling a game short of qualifying for the region.
“It’s a goal this season to win the district and move on beyond that,” said McCabe. “I think a lot about the girls that graduated last year; I want to win these games for them, too.”
McCabe already has college plans as a junior, as she originally verbally committed to Radford as a sophomore. When Radford coach Mickey Deane moved to James Madison University, so did McCabe. The future Duke will be able to sign her letter of intent to JMU during her senior season.
“My choice was basically between Radford and JMU anyway,” explained McCabe. “I really like Coach Deane and when he moved to JMU I changed, because it was closer and my family, especially my dad, would be able to come to more of my games.”
Despite the two close losses, Matoaca is poised to post a successful campaign under Driskill, who’s been the softball coach for the past ten years. The ultimate goal would be to match or exceed the 2011 Warriors, who fell in the state tournament to Battlefield 1-0.
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