By Rubin E. Grant
John Carroll Catholic softball coach Jeri Beck doesn’t have any qualms about fielding a young team. In fact, she rather enjoys it.
“We’ve got young kids on the field this season and we always do,” Beck said. “One of the advantages I have is I get them in the seventh grade and get to work with them for six years.
“I’m never shy about putting seventh graders on the field. We’ve got two starting for us now. If you can play the game, I’m putting you on the field.”
Second baseman Hannah Greene and right fielder Emily Williams are the Cavaliers’ two seventh-grade starters. They play other positions, depending on who’s pitching.
The Cavs have only one senior on this year’s team, designated player Abi Allarde, so youth is definitely served where John Carroll is concerned.
“It’s a good group of girls,” Beck said. “We have some great personalities and they’re fun to coach.”
They also are talented. John Carroll entered this week with a 16-7 record in a season that has featured junior pitcher Macey Ogle and her younger sister Mallory, a freshman center fielder.
Macey Ogle has been “phenomenal” in the pitching circle and at the plate, Beck said.
She has a 13-3 record with a 2.22 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings pitched. She has allowed only 40 hits and walked 39.
“She has great command of her pitches,” Beck said. “She spins the ball really well.”
At the plate, Macey Ogle, who also plays left field, is batting .484 with 30 runs batted in. She is orally committed to Lipscomb University in Nashville.
Beck calls Mallory Ogle “a fantastic” defensive center fielder who tracks the ball well but is probably better as a hitter. She leads the team with a .554 batting average (36 hits in 65 at-bats), with 36 runs scored, 27 stolen bases and 12 RBI.
Sophomore shortstop Gracie Mills, the older sister of Hannah Greene, is another player who excels in the field and at the plate.
“She’s a fantastic shortstop,” Beck said. “I would put her up against anybody. She has great range and a great arm, and she’s tough.”
Offensively, Mills is batting .412 with 19 runs scored and 14 RBIs.
Junior catcher Charlotte Phillips is the Cavs’ top power threat with six doubles and three home runs, while batting .386 with 18 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
Two other key players who have emerged are sophomore first baseman Kayla Coley-Drayton and freshman pitcher-third baseman Annie Gregory, a transfer from Mountain Brook.
Coley-Drayton is solid defensively and also swings the bat well from the left side, batting .379 with 20 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
Gregory has a 3-4 record, but she keeps Macey Ogle from being overworked in the pitching circle.
“She’s still a little green,” Beck said of Gregory, “but she’s going to do well for us.”
Building Up Performance
John Carroll finished third in the 2019 Class 5A state tournament, ending the season with a 29-10-1 record.
The 2020 team got off to a slow start but was just starting to click with an 8-6-1 record when the season was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That was very difficult,” Beck said. “We were rolling on a high and starting to have a good season with our expectations in place when we got shut down. We had four seniors and that was tough on them.”
Beck put together a highlight video for the 2020 seniors, center fielder Emma Bauer, pitcher Abigayle Parker, catcher Claire Boone and utility player Tannslee Duck. The coach also has invited them back for this spring’s Senior Night, set for April 15.
John Carroll is considered the favorite in Class 5A, Area 9 this season. The Cavs open area play on Thursday at Pleasant Grove.
Beck likes the Cavs’ chances of making another deep run in the postseason.
“I believe we can,” she said. “We’ve got fantastic pitching and we’re building a great defense behind that. We’ve got some good hitters and team chemistry is really good.”