Same town, different diamond. Same positions, different uniforms. Same results.
Patrick Henry alumni Madison Gilman and Katie Woody lined up at catcher and first base, respectively, for Opening Day Sunday when the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets began their 2013 season with a doubleheader against Dickinson College. By the end of the afternoon, they had both left a lasting first impression.
The Yellow Jackets swept the Red Devils by scores of 8-1 and 8-0 on a crisp afternoon in Ashland. The original opening day doubleheader with Averett College set for last Saturday was postponed to March 14 due to rain.
In game one, the Jackets took an early 1-0 lead in the first when sophomore shortstop Sharese Jarvis hit a sacrifice fly to deep center, allowing leadoff hitter Amanda Sopko to score from third. Woody’s first collegiate hit, a single to right, opened the Randolph-Macon second inning. She and Michalann Camp, who reached base on a hit-by-pitch, scored when Lacey Berry roped a double to left field to make it a 3-0 advantage.
For Berry, a .194 hitter last season who bats at the bottom of the lineup, it was the first of two two-run doubles she would hit on the day, the second coming in game two. Berry is one of only five seniors on a young squad, and head coach Kevin Proffitt was pleased with the output.
“She’s been putting in a lot of extra work offensively, Proffitt said. “Last year she played some defensively, she hit some, but sometimes we’d pinch hit for her. We want her to hit for herself all year, so she definitely got off to a good start today.”
Senior leadership was felt from the mound, too, as Heather Lewis (Deep Run) went the distance in game one, allowing one run and scattering five hits over seven innings while striking out four, while Kristen Dize allowed just one hit over four innings to pick up the win in game two, which ended after five innings due to the slaughter rule.
Behind the plate for both games was Gilman, who hid her first-game jitters well, playing with the same grit and determination that helped lead Patrick Henry to the state championship game last season. In her second at-bat of the day, she fought off six pitches before striking out. She got her revenge three innings later when she smoked a pitch over the left field wall for her first collegiate home run, a three-run shot.
“[As a batter], the pitching is definitely more fast-paced and better. I guess it’s good to work a pitcher, but I’m not a fan of fouling it that much,” Gilman noted.
Defensively, she was blessed with some past experience for her first outing.
“I’ve had experience catching Heather [Lewis] because we played travel ball together, so it wasn’t too bad,” Gilman noted, adding she had plenty of time to practice with Dize as well, both in the fall and prior to Sunday.
For Woody, the highlight of the day was a two-run single in the fourth inning of game two, which pushed the Jackets’ lead on Dickinson to 8-0. For the day, she was two-for-five, scoring twice.
“I was more nervous in the batter’s box than I was in the field, but the pace of the game defensively is definitely faster, so I had to make adjustments,” Woody said.
Gilman and Woody weren’t the only freshmen to contribute, as Jenna Best, from Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, hit a home run in the first game and pitched the final inning of game two in relief of Dize. It is a sign of things to come as Proffitt and his staff are expecting big things from the newcomers.
“I wasn’t surprised at how well our freshmen swung the bat. Our freshman class is really good,” Proffitt observed. “They’re a pretty talented group of kids, and we’ve got a good mix of returnees as well.” The lineup for game one Sunday consisted of three seniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen.
Randolph-Macon steps up in competition this weekend when they travel to Virginia Beach to participate in the Beach Blast Tournament. On Friday, they’ll face Methodist at noon and Salisbury at 2 p.m., then Saturday will battle North Carolina Wesleyan at 10 a.m. before finishing the tournament against the eighth-ranked Division III team in the nation, Christopher Newport. The Captains feature four Hanover County alumni on their roster: pitcher Elizabeth Holte from Atlee, and pitcher Melanie Hazelwood, catcher Chelsea Mitchell, and outfielder Rachel Houff, all from Lee-Davis. Also playing for the Captains is Meagan Jones, a freshman who played for the Cosby Titans team who defeated Patrick Henry for both the Central Region and State Group AAA titles last June, both games by a 3-2 count.
Gilman and Woody echo the rest of the Jackets roster as they look ahead to this weekend, and beyond.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Gilman said with a smile.
The Jackets return home for a doubleheader Sunday against Franklin & Marshall at 1:30 p.m.