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Lady Rams _____
four were either All-CIAA or CIAA All-Tournament picks.
"We have a very good nucleus coming back," Gray
said. "But when you begin to focus on the next season, you
take the steps to build your team to be better than it was the
In her recruiting. Gray's main point of emphasis is to
build depth, especially at pitcher, catcher and the middle
infield positions. This past season, the lack of depth hurt
the Lady Rams over the course of a 45-game season.
To remedy that situation. Gray's focus will also include
signing multi-positional players who can compete for
playing time immediately.
"We need dominant players who can fill different
roles," she said. "With added depth, we'll have enough
skilled players on hand, so that in case of injuries, there's
not a drop-off talent-wise.
You never plan for injuries. But you do prepare for the
possibility. It's a huge plus to have good players who are
ready to step in and get the job done ."
The Lady Rams got stellar production from a trio of
sophomores in 2015. All three delivered at the plate and as
multi-positional players who did most of the pitching.
Mercedes Hargett produced all-star-caliber numbers as
a vastly improved hitter. A year ago, she struggled mightily
as a freshman with a .182 batting average. This spring, she
firmly established herself as a long-ball threat on every
Swing. Hargett hit .411, led the CIAA in home runs (13)
and was No. 2 in RBIs (40).
Chyna Riley (.395 batting average) is a converted
right-handed hitter who has gotten comfortable swinging
the bat from the left side. She ended the season with a con
ference-high 58 hits. As the season progressed, Riley got
better as a slap-hitter to all fields. In the process, she's
learned to take advantage of her foot speed, which enables
her turn drag bunts into base hits.
Katherine Zimmer had a stand-out season and was rec
ognized for her performance as the recipient of the Most
Improved Player Award. Zimmer hit .346 and drove in 30
runs, which was second on the team behind Hargett.
Three freshmen showed much promise. Utility player
Samantha Gibbs (359) played well in 19 games, but
missed most of the last half of the season due to a knee
injury Menssa caruio
made a smooth transi
tion as the starting
catcher who committed
just two errors in 212
Throughout the season,
Carillo continued to
improve as a disciplined
hitter. Anna Marino, an
outfielder, got better as
she gained more experi
Lady Rams Afl-CIAA Picks
* Mercedes Hargett
* Allison Woodbury
* Monet Daly
* Cbyna Riley
* Danyelle Beamon
* First team
it Second team
"When you look at
Melissa's batting average (.271), it doesn't reflect the
progress she made," said Gray. "She does an exceptional
job of putting the ball in play and moving the runners.
Anna, who came here as a right-handed hitter, had to get
used to batting left-handed. It was a big adjustment, but
over the final weeks, she played her best ball of the sea
Winston-Salem State's lack of depth had its biggest
impact on the pitching staff. Entering the season. Gray had
planned to use a four-pitcher rotation, which included
three-time All-CLAA pick Monet Daly, Hargett, Riley and
Zimmer. Those plans had to change. Due to ongoing knee
and ankle ailments, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding
Daly's availability as a pitcher. So, Gray shortened the
rotation to three, and Hargett got most of the work (pitched
148 2/3 innings of the staff total of 276 1/3 innings).
Hargett (10-13,3.86 ERA) was tops in the conference
with 152 strikeouts and she was second in pitching wins.
Riley went 5-8 with a 3.83 ERA. Zimmer (5-0,3.44 ERA)
proved to be effective and efficient.
"Each pitcher brings something different," said Gray.
"Some bring speed, others have ball movement and pitch
placement. We're looking to get more help in that area.
You can never have too many pitchers."
As explosive as the Lady Rams proved to be with their
bats, they showed tendencies to self-destruct with ques
tionable base running. In games where WSSU had sizable
leads, the mistakes didn't cause any damage. That wasn't
the case in closely-contested games. Mental mistakes on
the base paths were never more evident than in a 7-2 loss
to eventual CIAA Tournament champ Saint Augustine's
during the final weekend of regular-season play.
Trailing 5-0 in the bottom half of the fifth inning,
WSSU scored two runs with no outs. From there things
went downhill. Two base runners were picked off, which
put an end to what could've been a more productive
In the sixth, WSSU had the bases loaded with one out,
but came up empty. An infield fly ball was caught for the
second out, but the runner didn't get back to first base in
time and was thrown out to complete the double play.
"Those base running situations are about being aware
and being alert," said Gray. "It's to our advantage to make
better use of our speed, so we can keep people on base and
score runs. It's a part of the game that we have to get better
from page B1
school track on a national scale.
These departing seniors aren't
done with the sport. Ebony Williams
(Clemson), Katlin Sherman (UNC),
Erin Morrison (Hampton), Neteja
Hale (UNC Asheville), 11a Mumford
(Appalachian State) and Miaysha
Bryant (N.C. Central) will attend col
lege as scholarship athletes.
Over the past two years, the ladies
have racked up team titles at four
state championships (indoors and
outdoors). Last summer they won a
national outdoor title in the 4x200
relay and repeated as indoor national
champs this past winter.
"The day went very well," said
Coach Antwan Hughes. "I.hate to see
my six seniors leave. They did a great
job and re-wrote the school record
books. Because of them, the track
program has accomplished things.that
had never been done at Parkland.
For the last couple of years, our
folks have stepped up big when it
mattered most. When you make it to a
state meet, it's time to take it to anoth
er level. This year, these' ladies took it
to a level that I had never seen before.
I'm very thankful for everything
these young ladies have done for our
The state meet delivered a heavy
dose of heart-thumping moments that
involved Parkland's top performers.
There were jaw-dropping, come
from-behind wins in four track events
that helped the Mustangs win the
team title in run-away fashion.
Sherman, the defending state
champ in the 100 and 200, wasn't
expected to repeat. Based on fastest
times recorded, she was supposed to
finish no higher than third in both
events. In the 100 finals, however,
Sherman had the final say.
For most of the race, Tamara
Clark (High Point Central) and
Sydnei Murphy (Apex) were locked
in a tight battle for the lead and
Sherman was a half-step behind. But
over the last 10 meters, Sherman put
on an amazing burst to beat both run
ners in a photo finish. The top three
finishers were separated by .08 sec
onds with Sherman winning in 11J53.
Clark (11.55) was the runner-up and
Murphy (11.61) finished third.
"I kept telling myself, 'gotta win,
gotta win,"' said Sherman, who com
peted at a high level all season in spite
of a nagging ankle injury. "Near the
end. I concentrated on picking up my
knees, cocking my toes and pumping
my arms as hard as I could. My
adrenalin was pumping so hard that
pain wasn't an issue. God told me I
could win, so I knew 1 could do it."
Sherman, Clark and Murphy
engaged in another tightly contested
race in the 200. But the order of finish
wasn't the same as the 100. Clark pre
vailed with a time of 23.69 seconds,
Sherman placed second (24.02) and
Murphy was third (24.03).
In the hurdles, Williams more
than lived up to her reputation as one
of the nation's elites. Williams over
came a wobbly start in the 100-meter
hurdles to overtake top-seeded
Gabriele Cunningham of Mallard
Creek after both had cleared the last
hurdle. Williams won with a state
meet record clocking of 13.44 sec
onds and Cunningham was second at
"The start was horrible," said
Williams, who was voted MVP of the
state indoor track and field champi
onships in February. "But I always
come back at the end. So, I wasn't
about to give up in that race. I just ran
all the way through to the finish."
Williams earned redemption in
the 300-meter hurdles. A year ago,
she led in the final stages at the state
outdoor meet, but ended up finishing
last when she hit the next-to-last hur
dle and fell.
This time, it was smooth sailing
from start to finish. Williams (42.19
seconds) was pressed over the final
three .hurdles by Cary's Lakeisha
Warner (42.51), but still won by a
With the loss of six high-quality
seniors, there's an assumption that the
Mustangs days as viable state-cham
pionship contenders are over with.
Time Will tell. In the meantime, enter
McKinley McNeill. At this year's
state meet, McNeill, a junior quarter
miler. put on an eye-popping display
that won't be forgotten any time soon.
McNeill won her first individual
state title with a noteworthy victory
over nemesis Layla White of Cary in
the 400-meter dash. White won the
outdoor state title last spring and
she's the three-time state indoor
champ at 500 meters. For McNeill,
the win was even sweeter because she
had never beat White in head-to-head
"I've been on McKinley McNeill
all year," Hughes said. "I told her on
several occasions that she could beat
Layla White. Finally, she put it all
together and ran the kind of race that
she's capable of running."
At the state indoor championships
in February, McNeill came in with the
state's fastest time in the 500 and
White was second. The two ran neck
and-neck coming down the stretch,
but White was able to hold on and
win by a full meter.
A similar scenario unfolded at the
outdoor state championships. White
had a three-meter lead coming out of
the final turn. McNeiH waited until 40
meters to go before making her move.
This time, she had enough reserves
left to surge past White to win in a
personal-best time of 54.31 seconds.
White finished up with a 54.61 and
Parkland's Erin Morrison ran 56.18
for third place.
"Coming in, I just wanted to bet
ter myself and focus on running my
race," said McNeill. "At the indoor
championships, I paid too much
attention to what the other runners
were doing and it worked against me.
It was one of my goals to come out on
top, so I'm glad to be No. 1 and have
a great time to go along with it."
McNeill applied the finishing
touches on a memorable day when
she delivered victory with her anchor
leg on the 4x400 relay. Parkland was
in third place and trailing front runner
Southeast Raleigh by 25 meters when
McNeill got the baton. At that junc
ture, it seemed that the best the
Mustangs could hope for was a sec
McNeill gave chase and eventual
ly closed the gap. She caught Sarah
Hoffert of Cary on the final turn, and
then pulled even with Southeast
Raleigh's Eboni Roberson coming
down the final straightaway. McNeill
took the lead for good with 35 meters
to go and Parkland (Morrison,
Williams, Kimani Davis and
McNeill) won with a state-meet
record time of 3 minutes, 46.57 sec
In the sprint relays, Parkland
expected to sweep the 4x100, 4x200
and 4x400 as it did at the 2014 out
door championships. The Mustangs
ruled the 4x200 and set a new state
record (1 minute, 36.43 seconds) in
the process. The foursome of
McNeill, Williams, Miaysha Bryant
and Sherman erased the previous
mark set by Parkland two years
The only relay event that didn't
go Parkland's way was the 4x100.
The Mustangs were the defending
state champs, and they ran fast
enough to set a new state record. Yet,
they weren't fast enough to defeat
first-place Mallard Creek, which is
now the new record holder (46.69
Sherman, the 4x100 anchor, came
close to wiping out Mallard Creek's
five-meter cushion. The final 25
meters was a mad dash to the finish
line and Sherman barely missed
pulling off what would've been a
stunning comeback. Instead,
Parkland (Mumford, Jahnae
Bowman, Bryant and Sherman) was
the runner-up at 46.85.
nam by Cn* T OreenW
Ebony Williams, right, dominated the hurdles races for the Mustangs.
State championship notes
^^? tir I ? ?-?
of Reagan couldn't help but have
mixed emotions at the state meet.
On the one hand, Washington
Saunders was elated with his sec
ond-place finish in the 400 (48.95
seconds). He's also pleased that
he recently signed to run track at
On the other hand, running
wasn "t the only object of focus for
thoughts were split between com
peting for medals and reflecting
on the time he was able to spend
with his grandfather. Coy
Saunders Sr. who passed away
recently. The elder Saunders is
one of the prime reasons why
"I am so blessed to make it to
the state meet." Washington- L_
Saunders said. "But this wasn't
just for me; it was for my grandfather. Now, I'm ready to move on to the
next stage, so I can keep going forward with my career in track."
from page B1
Tyler Scearce to handle most of the
starting pitching duties next week. In
the regional six-team field, four wins
are needed to reach the College World
Series scheduled for May 23-30 at the
USA Baseball Complex in Cary,
which is the same site as this year's
CIAA Tournament. At this juncture,
it's not clear who might get the call to
pitch the fourth game if the Rams
should make it to that point. The like
ly choice would be between subma
rine specialist Hayden O'Neal and
one of the three starters.
Righthanders Hatcher (8-1, 4.61
ERA) and Burton'(5-l, 2.44 ERA) are
proven commodities as starters.
Scearce, a freshman lefty, who served
mostly in a relief capacity earlier this
season, has worked his way into the
starting rotation. He replaces left
hander Jordan Carlton (4-4, 4.13
ERA), who's scheduled to have sur
gery next week to remove a blood clot
in his throwing arm.
Scearce (4-0, 2.04 ERA) showed
his mettle as the starter and winning
pitcher in last week's 8-3 win over
Virginia State in the conference tour
nament final. In six innings, Scearce,
an All-Rookie pick, allowed two runs
on five hits with four strikeouts and
"In order for us to stay in con
tention, we have to get a lot of strong
innings from our starters," said
Ritsche. "If they can each give us 100
to 110 pitches, that should be good for
six or seven innings. Then, we can
turn to our bullpen to take over from
The bullpen has been reliable with
Eric Corlette (6-2,5.75 ERA), Jordan
Cummings (6-3, 4.17 ERA, three
saves) and Devin McLemore (5-2,
3.43 ERA, three saves) turning in
solid performance in closing games
out in the late innings. Aside from
those three, Dylan Forbes and Austin
Cole have responded well when
called on to pitch in a variety of game
"Pitching is our strong point,"
said Ritsche. "Our pitchers have
worked so hard all year long to help
us' get to where we are today. They
deserve to get the defensive backing
that will help us win in the postsea
son. We're looking to ride our pitch
ing all the way through the regionals
and hopefully to the College World j
farns reliever Devin McLemore is 5-2 with a ERA
..V tt }
NCAA Division II
When: May 14-17.2015
Where: Erie, Pa.
Today (May 14)
(No. 4 seed)
vs. Seton Hill (No. 3 seed)
Friday (May 15)
If Rams win. they play
Millersville or West Chester.
If Rams lose, they will play
Mercyhurst or West Virginia
Saturday (May 16)
To be determined
Sunday (May 17)
To be determined
to net score* and