Lady Rams counting on experienced youth as they prepare for 2013 season

COVINGTON — Newton’s softball team is in another rebuilding season with four freshmen and four sophomores listed on the 11-player roster. Just because they’re freshmen and sophomores, that does not mean that they’re inexperienced.

“The freshmen have all played travel ball so this is nothing to them,” Lady Rams head coach Virginia Waters said. “It’s just another team they’re playing with.

“These girls that are coming in have good ethic from what I’ve seen so far. They’ve all played travel ball and are passionate about the game.”

Newton’s upperclassmen are senior Bri Weaver and juniors Merlexia Maddox and Cheyenne Walsingham.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing, Waters said about having a young team. “As a coach, you can establish a new routine that everybody buys into simply because nobody knows what it was like the previous years. That might be a good thing.”

One thing Newton has to do is replace the left side of the field. A move they’ve made is to put Ciara Bryan at shortstop from third base where she played last year while putting a freshman in at third base. They will use the opening-season tournament at Volunteer Park in Griffin starting today to see if the moves worked.

“That’s what this weekend is for, try everybody out in places and see where they best fit and where they’re the most comfortable,” Waters said.

After making it to the Class AAAAAA playoffs last season as the No. 4 seed from Region 2, Waters is hoping to improve on the Rams’ seeding and make it to the second round of the playoffs. She feels that with the talented amount of players she has the team that can make that come true.

Besides talent, the Newton girls also have something they lacked last season — pitching depth.

“I’m actually excited (this season). Last year, how (the pitcher) was doing, so went the team. So if she was having a bad day, so did everyone else. But now, if one can’t do it, I’ve got three others that can. Hitting-wise, we seem to be stronger all the way around. The only thing we haven’t done yet is hit live pitching, which we will do this weekend,” Waters said.

“Every year I always wonder if we have enough pitching, do we have enough hitting, do we have enough depth to get to the playoffs. Every year we figure out a way to do it. This year we have more natural talent that I’ve had in a really long time. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I can see us doing really well this year. I’d love to get to the next step and make it to that second round of the playoffs. They’re definitely capable, these girls are all talented ball players.”

Freshman Maddie Cronic will be the team’s No. 1 pitcher. Even though Cronic is a freshman, Waters has confidence that being a freshman will not rock her as she will be pitching against older, more experienced players.

“I don’t know if it’ll be that big of a deal to her simply because I’m pretty sure she plays up in travel ball so she plays with older girls anyway,” Waters said. “She has really good location. She throws four or five different pitches and is very consistent.

Able to take over pitching duties if Cronic is having an off day or just needs a break are sophomore Ashton McKinnon, who did some pitching last year, and freshmen Markayla Price and Katy Ammons.

The other thing that the Lady Rams have this year that they didn’t have last year is their own field.

“It’s something to be proud of. The other teams in the county got to play on their fields and we played at the rec field. It’s a blessing and a curse,” Waters said. “The rec department did us really well and kept up the field really well. Now we have to put in a lot of work. But it’s nice to have something to call our own. I want the girls to be as proud of the field as I am.”