Sussex Central softball team keeps on winning

GEORGETOWN – It wouldn’t have been a charm. Not for the Sussex Central softball team at least.

Having missed out on the playoffs for consecutive seasons, the Lady Knights were determined to not run that streak to three.

Entering Tuesday on a 10-game winning streak, Sussex Central currently sits at 12-3 overall and has all but assured its playoff drought will end when state tournament play begins Memorial Day weekend.

In the tournament’s first two rounds, the better seed hosts the game.

Sussex Central’s strength of schedule will help the team with its seed, but the Knights still need a strong finish to the regular season to secure those home games.

Central has three games remaining on its schedule. Laurel on Tuesday comes first followed by a Thursday bout at playoff-hopeful Indian River before a May 23 scheduled finale at home against nonconference Christiana.

“We’re not in yet, but we feel we’ve won enough games to qualify (for the tournament),” said head coach John Wells. “They’re excited after being beaten up on the last two years. We still have goals to meet and want home games.”

Central is a confident team as well.

With a roster that has played together several years, the Knights have learned how to win together.

“This season has been great compared to the last couple,” said senior Brooke Stoeckel, who last week announced that she would continue playing softball at Delaware Tech along with current teammate Chelsey Ward. “It’s basically just been growing together and meshing, because we’ve hardly lost anybody (to graduation) from the last few years. We just kept getting better and better and we’re finally there. We are a playoff-caliber team.”

Some of Sussex Central’s struggles the previous two years could be attributed to its inexperienced pitching. Prior to the new campaign, the pitching staff worked hard at improving over the offseason.

That work has paid off so far, and an ace has emerged as well. Junior Hayley McCabe has been the Knights’ main windmiller throughout the year. She hasn’t surrendered a run in her last five outings.

“Our pitchers worked out all year in the weight room and have picked up three- or four-miles per hour on their power pitches,” Wells said, adding that the defense has improved tremendously as well. “Our defense is so much better this year. Defensively we’re better in every aspect. We’re a better group now.”

If there is one concern, it’s at the plate. But even there Wells said the team has improved.

“The better teams in the state can explode for four or five runs in an inning,” he said. “We have to score runs, and we’re capable of doing it. You don’t want to be in those 1-0 games too often.”

Regular season softball must be concluded by May 24 and the following Saturday marks the tournament’s scheduled beginning. Central’s players are anxious to finish things out and begin the hunt for the school’s fourth softball state title.

“We have a lot to do,” Ward said. “I want to get through the playoffs and make it to the championship. This is a team that’s capable of getting very far.”

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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