Keep Rowing: Lady Ravens poised to extend softball state tournament streak

GEORGETOWN – Sussex Tech’s softball program has been a beacon of consistency and success for going on two decades.

The team has earned a state tournament appearance every season dating back to 2002 and captured state championships in 2007 and 2012 under longtime head coach John Marvel.

Last year’s 15-3 season led Tech’s senior-laden squad to the state quarterfinals before a 2-0 loss ended the season prematurely at the hands of Delaware Military Academy. With seven girls gone from last season, the 2018 squad will see a few newcomers taking over key spots in the lineup.

This year’s team mantra, “Keep Rowing” is fitting considering the number of veteran players the Lady Ravens lost from the 2017 roster due to graduation last spring.

Junior Jakayla Sample enters her third season with Tech’s varsity squad (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“We lost a lot of good players last year, and I think coming into this year we have a lot of young players who are going to be able to fill those shoes pretty easily. But we definitely have some work to do,” senior Madison Parker said during Tuesday’s practice.

“So far, I think we look good as a whole,” added senior Alyssa Collins. “We have a lot of talent, we just have to put it all together. We had, sometimes, seven seniors on the field last year so it’s kind of a new lineup going into this year.”

“All seven seniors started at least a minimum of four or five games last year, so every one of them played – some more than others, but they all started several games,” explained coach Marvel.

Parker and Collins are joined by fellow seniors Megan Perdue and Hannah Betts as the core group of team leaders, but coach Marvel says the leadership doesn’t stop with the four senior girls.

“Everyone on the team can be a leader, because we define leadership as the ability to make everyone around you more productive and better,” he said.

“We look for leadership even from our ninth graders, but our biggest leaders usually come from people who have been in our program their second or third year,” coach Marvel continued. “We’ve got three juniors in their third year on the varsity team: Taylor Wroten, Kayla Booros and Jakayla Sample. Then we have another couple of juniors who this is their second year, so when you add those to the four seniors we have, you’ve got a good leadership nucleus.”

Wroten is heading into the season as the team’s workhorse starter in the pitcher’s circle, but Tech has a handful of other girls who could possibly either challenge Wroten for the top spot or simply add depth to the team’s pitching staff.

Junior Taylor Wroten is set to be Tech’s go-to starting pitcher heading into the 2018 season (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“She’s someone who we’re looking to pitch a lot of innings for us, but we also have a couple of other girls who throw well too. We have Kayla Booros, Kylie Kruger, a freshman, and then two sophomores Sierra Livingston and Tori Henry,” said coach Marvel of the pitching situation.

“They’re all working themselves to try to get into position to either make it challenging for that person who’s going to be the go-to on the mound, or to get us to the point where we’re we say you know what, we don’t have to stick with our main pitcher a long time. We can let someone come in and do something.”

With about 10 days until the start of the regular season, the position battles continue to be an open competition in practice.

Rather than naming starters early on, coach Marvel and his coaching staff prefer to keep things competitive in practice.

“We have a lot of spots that people are competing for, so we’re trying to teach our kids that we don’t compete against one another, we compete with one another,” he said. “That’s not easy to teach. It’s competitive out there, and we’re not set out there in many positions. There’s a few that I kind of have in my mind, but right now I just want to leave it out there for girls to keep competing for.”

Team mindset

Perhaps one of the reasons coach Marvel’s Tech program has been able to consistently field state championship-contending teams since the early 2000s is the coaching staff’s overall mindset and approach to working with the kids.

“The whole mindset of our program is growth,” he said. “So, what does that mean? We’re looking to help you grow in four dimensions: as a person, as a teammate, as a student and as a player. We’re always looking at where you are, and no matter where you are we’re looking to see if we can’t get you to the next level. That’s really what we’re about, is growth. We’re trying to build elite people. That’s a lofty goal, but in chasing we might catch excellence.”

Team goals

As far as team goals go, the Lady Ravens won’t be sitting down at the beginning of the season and piecing together a set of goals for 2018.

Coach Marvel prefers to do so during the season.

“We do, eventually, set goals, but we don’t set them in the beginning,” he said. “As we move along, we’ll go ‘what’s everybody think is good for us?’ We never sit down and say, ‘this is what we’re trying to do.’ At some point, after three or four weeks, the whole team will collaborate and say let’s go for this or let’s go for that. We found, through research, that that’s how good groups work together. We try to collaborate.”

As of right now, the varsity roster for 2018 is made up of three freshmen, three sophomores, six juniors and four seniors.

Tech will have a road scrimmage Wednesday, March 14 at North County High (MD) at 3:45 p.m. and a play day scrimmage at home Saturday, March 17.

“We still have three scrimmages on Saturday and one tomorrow, so that’s four opportunities for people to show us what they can do.”

The Lady Ravens open the 2018 regular season schedule at home against Cape Henlopen Friday, March 23. First pitch is slated for 4:15 p.m.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.