Lady Knights taking it one game at a time

Although late April marks the middle point of the regular high school season, the Thomas Dale varsity softball team feels it certainly doesn’t indicate their half-way mark.

“Our goal is regionals and we’re focused on taking it one game at a time and getting to the regionals,” said head coach Dennis Jones, leading the team for his sixth consecutive year. “They’re a very tight-knit group and they’re pretty focused in what they do.”

With a mid-season record of 8-0 (eight wins and no losses), and ranked near the top of the polls in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the team seems to be well on their way to reaching this feat. Last year the team won the Central District title before losing in the regional tournament, and according to Jones, they want another go with the area’s top competition.

The team of 12 ladies – five seniors, four juniors and three freshmen – is “very talented,” Jones expressed, “and very quick; we’re probably one of the fastest teams in the region … they’re fast.” All the seniors start as does one of the freshmen, while others contribute in other ways like pinch-runners and late-game playing.

Another type of speed Jones praises is the fastball of his “phenomenal” pitcher, senior Lacey Waldrop, who has started on varsity since she was a freshman. “Since she’s been here we’ve only lost seven or eight games in the past few years – two of those have been in the playoffs.”

Waldrop is approaching her 1000th career strikeout and has signed to pitch next year with Florida State University, a top Division I school in the country. Her fastball clocks in around 65 miles per hour, which at 40 feet is equivalent to a fastball at 90 miles per hour at 60 feet, the pitching distance for high school, college and professional baseball.

“I just think we have it all together this year,” Waldrop said. “We’re playing really good defense; we’re hitting well … Everyone is hustling and getting everything done. I definitely think we’re going to make it to regional finals this year, and hopefully win it and make our way to states.”

Also worth paying attention to this season is senior shortstop Logan Tollison, one of Jones’ “big sticks,” looking to play at ODU next year. She is contributing defensively and at the plate for the lady knights.

Junior centerfielder Ashby Bryant attributes much of the success to Waldrop and the team’s offense: “It’s mainly our pitcher, and our hitting has been getting better since the beginning of the year. I see regionals and I’m hoping for states.”

For Coach Jones, who believes in his team, it’s important to slow down and focus on the week ahead of them: “The rest of the year I hope we keep on this roll. I think we should be okay. We have some hard district matches with Dinwiddie, Prince George, Colonial Heights and Matoaca, but we should be fine. … In past years we’ve always thought about winning the region and winning the state title. We’re trying to keep everything in perspective, taking it one game at a time: winning the district and the district tournament, going to and winning the regionals and then winning the state. That’s my goal and it’s all their goals as well.”

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