Softball: Falcons fly into title tourney
Kinkaid head softball coach Beth Rodriguez hopes her squad's recent 7-6, 10-inning victory over St. John's is a harbinger of good things to come for the Falcons.
By knocking off one of its biggest rivals, Kinkaid tied Episcopal and St. John's for first place in the South Zone at 6-1, although the Falcons earned the No. 2 seed at the Southwest Preparatory Conference Championships on Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, in Fort Worth.
"It's a really good win," Rodriguez said. "We've got some serious momentum heading to SPCs."
Prior to beating the Mavericks, Kinkaid edged Galveston O'Connell 7-5 after dropping two earlier meetings. Few teams in the conference are as hot as the Falcons, who also pounded John Cooper 21-0 to end the regular season.
But Rodriguez considers two-time defending SPC champion Tulsa Holland Hall the heavy favorite in Division I, with teams like Episcopal, Kinkaid, St. John's and co-host Fort Worth Country Day in the next tier of contenders.
"The title is Holland Hall's to lose," Rodriguez said. "If Holland Hall is firing on all cylinders, I'm not sure if anyone can stay with them. I believe their closest (conference) game this year was 7-0. But there are a couple of teams who could sneak in there, if they falter."
Kinkaid, 12-5 overall, is one of the youngest teams in the SPC, starting three freshmen and there sophomores. However, there's no disputing the Falcons' talent.
Rodriguez considers junior catcher Mia Fredricks "our best all-around player." Fredricks is the Falcons' top hitter (.450), not to mention a force behind the plate.
"Mia is a sparkplug. She's thrown out a number of base runners with her arm," Rodriguez said. "She might be the top catcher in the SPC."
Senior Laura Lachman has been a mainstay for the Falcons. Lachman stepped in at shortstop after junior Rachel Feig, the projected starter, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in soccer. Lachman has produced in the No. 3 hole (.400) while also bringing stability to the infield.
"We would have been in trouble, had Laura not come along and played so well," Rodriguez said.
Junior Nikki Ellis began the season as Kinkaid's No. 1 pitcher, but she's morphed into the starter at first base. Ellis splits time with designated player Hannah Nazir, one of several gifted freshmen on the roster.
Sophomore Carrie Walker and Edie Powers start at second and third base, respectively.
Junior Maddy Gould is the center fielder, while freshman Julia Diamonon and Georgi Andrews are in left and right field. Freshman Brecca Thomas, a star on Kinkaid's basketball team, also has earned playing time.
Sophomore Calin Akerman, who has been used mostly as a pinch runner, delivered the game-winning hit against St. John's.
Rodriguez also has been thrilled with the play of sophomore pitcher Rienzi Reckling. Reckling hurled a complete game against the Mavericks, showcasing her control and durability. Reckling, who also plays first base and outfielder, is hitting .320.
"Rienzi has really turned it on the last couple of weeks," Rodriguez said. "She's done a terrific job on the mound and she's produced for us offensively in the No. 5 spot."
With so many underclassmen in starting roles, Rodriguez thinks the future of Kinkaid softball is in capable hands. A strong finish in the SPC tourney might establish the Falcons as one of the front-runners in 2012.
"We have a lot to look forward to the next two or three years," Rodriguez said. "We expect to compete for championships."
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