Tuesday, May 6, 2014
The Fox Creek softball team is right where it wants to be.
Head coach David Bell’s squad sits in the winners bracket in the Class A, District IV playoffs. The Predators (19-6) got there by way of beating Great Falls in the first round, 10-0 in five innings, and Whitmire in the second round, 13-4. Freshman pitcher Jada Simpson picked up both wins, with the first coming on a perfect game.
“Home-field advantage is huge,” Bell said. “It’s going to be great having the fans here. The kids and the school turned out. Here (in the team’s game against Whitmire), the baseball guys turned out and we are going to go watch them play. That’s huge in any sport, I don’t care what it is. It’s like playing The Swamp with the (Florida) Gators. It’s tough, I don’t care how good you are.”
Bell has pulled no punches all year – his goal is to bring the first state championship for a team sport to the school. The Predators now must lose twice to be eliminated in a rematch with Whitmire. The game(s) will take place at Riverview Park at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
A big reason for the team’s success, as has been the case all year, is junior Hannah Culpepper. After starting the year as an outfielder and pitcher, she has transitioned into the team’s everyday second-baseman.
“I just go wherever coach puts me,” she said. “Earlier in the year I even played some shortstop. I started out in center field, but now I play second and pitch.”
Culpepper said she remembered that last year’s team was tripped up and forced into a doubleheader at Southside Christian. Though the team went on to win those games, and the district championship, she said there is a sense of relief that they won’t have to do that again.
Bell called Culpepper a “gifted athlete” who has a “cannon for an arm.”
“She has great range, great speed, great power in the bat, she can lay down a bunt and she can slap a ball on the ground,” he said. “Hannah is that kind of player that you just love to have. You can make her into whatever you want. She’s a junior this year, and yeah, I can put her out there and let her be my star outfielder. However, right now I just needed to move some other people around and it made the team better. No matter what I do, Hannah is just going to look at me and say ‘Yes sir,’ and what do you do with that kind of player? That kind of player that makes All-Region, All-State and it’s a pleasure to nominate.”
Before the game against Whitmire, Culpepper said that Simpson came to her and said she was nervous.
“She said that she had never really been nervous for a game before,” Culpepper said. “I told her that she just needed to go out and put the pressure on her teammates. She just needed to do her job, and I just wanted her to think about nothing but glove today. She came out here and did it.”
Should the team get past its matchup on Wednesday, they will play the Class A, District III champion on the road Saturday. In that bracket, No. 1 seed Lewisville sits in the winners portion and awaits a matchup with Tamassee-Salem.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.