by Andrew Stark
The Independence softball team has backed up last year’s turnaround season with an impressive 2012 campaign that has helped the Patriots become the best team in the Southwestern 4A conference.
Behind the senior battery of catcher Katie Pearsall and pitcher Erin Standley, the Patriots are 13-2 on the season and have found a variety of ways to win.
They have one-run wins over Ardrey Kell (twice) and Butler but also have posted shutouts over Rocky River, South Mecklenburg, West Charlotte, Vance and Cornelius Hough.
“The tight scores prove that we are in a very competitive conference with a lot of solid talent,” said first-year coach Ken Orsillo. “The scores show that we can hunker down when we are faced with talented teams and play solid defense. We seem to play much better and as a more complete team under pressure.”
Part of the Patriots’ knack for playing well under pressure is their steady senior leaders, Standley and Pearsall. Orsillo said Standley simply doesn’t get rattled in close games and never seems to get off task.
Standley is 13-2 on the mound and had 62 strikeouts in 73.2 innings with a 1.90 ERA before twice shutting out Rocky River on April 24. At the plate, she’s second on the team with a .478 batting average and also has a home run, 15 runs scored and seven stolen bases.
Pearsall leads the team with a .487 average and has 10 runs and nine RBIs.
“They have both been tremendous assets to the younger players – both through playing ability and a personality that demonstrates (being) cool under pressure,” Orsillo said. “They have humbly been leaders to the rest of the team.”
Junior Morgan Benson has been another key and is batting .455 with 12 runs scored and seven RBIs.
Orsillo said he has seen marked improvement in the team as the year has gone on and is excited to see how far the Patriots can advance in the conference and state playoffs.
“We still have to continue to grow cohesion as a team, however, that has greatly improved,” Orsillo said. “We are scrappy, and that is a positive but sometimes shows as sloppy in clutch situations.”
Orsillo said that as the Patriots enter their final two regular-season games – a Friday, April 27 matchup with Myers Park and a Monday, April 30 finale against rival Butler – they are focused on preparing for the conference and state tournaments.
“We simply have to practice well and (keep) focused,” Orsillo said. “Because of the history of talent each one of the players possess, they sometimes forget that practice is vital to staying smooth on the dirt.
“The keys to the rest of the season are to not get complacent against some of the less-experienced teams and to remain focused on the tough stretch we are up against as we move through conference and into the state tournament.”