Smyrna softball team aims to contend again

SMYRNA — It was one of those crossroads moments.

Smyrna High’s softball team had just given up two runs to Cape Henlopen in the top of the seventh inning to allow the Vikings to tie the game.

The Eagles could either dig in or hang their heads and let the win get away from them.

But Smyrna’s players fought back, scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 3-2 victory on Monday afternoon.

“It was awesome and it was exciting,” junior first baseman Olivia Faragher said with a smile. “I think them scoring just brought out the fire in us.

Kaelyn Press (State News file photos)

“I was really proud of us for not giving up. We fought.”

A year ago, the Eagles got all the experience they wanted in losing close games.

Of Smyrna’s six setbacks in 2016, three came by one just run with another coming by only two.

Most of this year’s Eagles know what that felt like — since most of them are back from a squad that went 13-6 after losing in the first round of the DIAA state tournament.

And while Smyrna is only 3-2 at the moment, there’s a great deal of optimism that the Eagles will be contenders again in the Henlopen Conference.

“They know what their focus is,” said coach Nicki Shirey. “They’re a pretty strong-minded group.

“They put in the work. Outside of practice, they’re doing things on their own. They’re really helping themselves, for the team.”

Jessica Anderson

“We’ve all played together since we’ve been like 10,” said junior catcher Madison Drummond. “I think it’s good that we’re so close.”

Certainly, the way last season ended left Smyrna with a lot of motivation.

The Eagles fell to Appoquinimink, 7-3, in the first round of the state tourney — after beating the Jaguars, 8-1, just nine days earlier.

Smyrna’s players walked away from that loss feeling like they had only themselves to blame for not being more focused. The school’s graduation was held earlier in the day.

“Our heads just weren’t in it,” said Farragher. “We know we can’t give up like that ever again.

“We just knew that we had to work harder this year. We just had to learn from it.”

Smyrna head coach Nikki Shirey

“We carry it with us in a positive way — to fight back and continue to push,” said junior outfielder Kaelyn Press. “No matter what happens, we know we’re in it together.”

The Eagles have a somewhat unusual roster in that, after graduating just two starters last spring, they don’t have any seniors on this year’s squad.

Press was a first-team All-Henlopen Conference pick last season, junior pitcher Jessica Anderson was a second-team selection and Farragher made honorable mention all-conference. There are six juniors and six sophomores on this year’s 14-player roster.

Young or not, though, Smyrna wants to win now.

Losing two of their first three games to start this season reminded them that winning isn’t easy.

Madison Drummond

“I think we needed it,” said Press. “Last year, I wouldn’t say it was an easy start, but it was more smooth in the beginning. It (losing twice) was kind of a wakeup call. It’s not going to come easy to us so we’ve really got to fight for it.”

“We definitely still realize that we have to work hard,” said Drummond. “We know we have talent but we still have to mesh together. I think having those loses brought us together more.”

Smyrna hopes that Monday’s narrow win over Cape Henlopen is a sign of good things to come. The Vikings handed the Eagles one of their one-run losses last season.

“They never gave up,” Shirey said about the win. “They did what they had to do to get the job done.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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