Woodward-Granger softball recap: Hawks keep replenished
Another season in the books but the next chapter looks to be an exciting one if this year’s progress continues.
While eight wins was not enough to give Woodward its first winning season since 2016, it at least broke the Hawks out of a pattern. For the past four seasons, they won six, then seven, then six and seven games in 2021. And it looked like this trend would finally break for the worse early on this year when the Hawks lost their first nine games including five double-digit losses.
But once they finally broke out with a 16-6 win over ACGC, the ball started moving back in the right direction. They closed out the remainder of the season with an 8-12 record; arguably the team’s best 20 game stretch in the last five seasons. Two their losses were just by one run.
Unfortunately, that didn’t result in a postseason push, marking two straight years the Hawks haven’t cleared the first round of regionals.
The Hawks’ fountain of youth keeps filling back up.
For the past three seasons, it’s been noted just how young the Hawks are. There’s always untapped potential that’s coming back thanks to a lack of departing seniors. And once again, that rings true. It’s just a question of when all of the experience built over the past few seasons may converge into a winning run.
A cornerstone of the team for the last four seasons, Chloe Houge is the only full-time starter that will leave. Rian Jamison also departs but was only in for 13 starts this year and was relieved of full-time pitching duties last season with the arrival of freshman NataLeigh Herron.
There’s no doubt a huge gap that Houge will leave in the outfield and as the leadoff hitter having led the team with 35 hits, 27 runs, 43 total bases, 23 steals and a .967 fielding percentage. As great as Houge has been, she wasn’t getting across home plate on her own.
This year, the Hawks pushed out two full-time starters that have yet to walk in the high school hallways: Riley McCaulley and Jaidyn Achenbach. And if they’re anything like their multi-sport all-conference relatives Dylan McCaulley and Bryce Achenbach, they’ll be fixtures for years to come. A third eighth-grader Andrea Nardini also started in 14 games, and once again shares a name with two stars, Brody and Collin. The only other team in the conference that had three eighth-grader starters in 10 or more games was Ogden.
More than just getting on the field or being related to Woodward royalty, they proved themselves time and again on the field this year.
On per-at-bat basis, all three eighth-graders were among the team’s best contributors. Each averaged at least one base per game and were held on-base percentage of over .400 this year. Houge was the only player with a higher OBP.
The team’s freshmen — NataLeigh Herron and Lauren Rodgers — were not far behind, either. They pulled their weight driving in a combined 26 runs with batting average over .300. And from the pitcher’s circle, Herron was the go-to arm with 44 strikeouts and 4-7 record in 14 starts.
But next year’s 2023 team may be the last to have a roster that is familiar, as three junior starters enter their final season: Audrey Simmons, Allie Moore and Bella McDivitt.