2022 high school softball previews: Kings Mountain, Crest, Cramer, Burns, Cherryville and East Lincoln favorites in their leagues

By Richard Walker

A competitive race is foreseen in the Big South 3A and Southern Piedmont 1A/2A softball races this season.

Favorite Kings Mountain, Crest and Cramer received first-place votes from rival coaches in the Big South, while Burns and Cherryville are considered co-favorites in the Southern Piedmont.

In the Western Foothills 3A, East Lincoln is a big favorite to win the league.

Regular season games began on Monday and here’s a preview, by conference, of schools in Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties:

Big South 3A

Coach: Ashley Rothwell
2021 record: 0-12, 0-12
No information provided

Coach: James Brown (2nd year, 9-5)
Assistant coaches: Becca Hill, Nicole Cauthen
2021 record: 9-5, 7-5
Returning players: C Braley Hamilton, 2B Andrea Detweiler, SS Payton Conroy, P Emma Donaldson, C/OF Madison Lee, 1B Addy Marr, OF Colleen Grealis
Top newcomers: LF Alayna Pettit, P/IF Hadley Womack, OF Riley Lavinder, OF Ashlyn Lee, OF Armani Houston, OF Addison Stewart
Comment: With six returning starters, including future collegians Hamilton (Gaston College) and Conroy (Campbell), the Storm should compete for playoffs if not a title

Coach: Greg Earl (21st year, 280-95)
Assistant coaches: Tracy Beaver, Kaylee Wacaster
2021 record: 12-1, 12-0
Returning players: OF Molly Beam, OF Taylor Black, IF Makenzie Clark, IF Jaylen Ledbetter, IF Mackenzie Luckenbaugh, IF Jourdan Martin, OF Riley Parker, IF Alexis Shope, IF Sara Rose Warlick
Top newcomers: OF Nevaeh Blackwell, IF/OF Abby Edwards, OF Reece Gettys, IF/OF Aiden Ledbetter, IF/OF Shelby Lancaster, IF Ella Shope, IF/OF
Hadley Watts
Comment: Perennial power has a younger team than usual but still is considered one of the favorites to win another championship.

Coach: Kevin Baker (12th year)
Assistant coach: Kevin Gordon, Carissa White
2021 record: 7-6, 6-6
Returning players: OF Blair Riley, 1B Kaitlin Barnes, IF Bryn Bumgardner, P Carson Upton, C Lily Smith, IF Karson Sloop, OF Lilli Marr, IF Madison Brown, IF Megan Baker, OF Carli Chavis
Top newcomers: P Olivia Hensley, IF Lily Cabe, IF Madison Ladin, OF Allie Osbourne
Comment: With seven returning starters, including five all-conference players, the Jaguars look to contend for title and playoffs.

Coach: Annette Phillips
2021 record: 2-12, 2-10
No information provided

Kings Mountain
Coach: Kevin Cruise (6th year, 47-28)
Assistant coaches: Jeff Cloninger, Cassie King, Shon Macopson
2021 record: 8-6, 8-4
Returning players: C Austyn Dixon, P/SS Kali Weaver, IF Alayna Patrick, SS/P Andrea Melton
Top newcomer: IF/C Paige Fleming
Comment: With six returning starters, including 2021 all-state picks Dixon and Weaver, rival coaches think the Mountaineers can unseat Crest as league champion.

North Gaston
Coach: Stephen Bates
2021 record: 7-7, 7-5
No information provided

South Point
Coach: Leah Brooks (9th year, 78-77)
Assistant coaches: Erin Young, George Kitchen, Todd Secrest, Allison Moody
2021 record: 0-14, 0-12
Returning players: OF Claudia Baucom, IF Ashleigh Burns, IF Courtney Leach, IF/OF Katie Hovis, IF Kendall Martin, OF Jordan Coffey, P Hatsue McQuay, OF Ashlea Wilson
Top newcomers: OF Annie Pinto, OF Zoe Shamberger, IF Ally Cooper, IF Lylian Kelly, OF Star Lacy, OF Maggie Mizell, OF Annie Risk
Comment: Six returning starters give the Red Raiders hope of improving on last year’s finish.

Southern Piedmont 1A/2A

Bessemer City
Coach: Lindsey Shumaker (8th year, 93-50)
Assistant coach: Duane Carter
2021 record: 2-3, 2-2
Returning players: C Megan Sliney, 3B/P Lacey Pettry, SS Faith Dawson, CF Erin Moss, LF Makenzie Harris, 1B Imani Rhodes
Top newcomers: OF/C Sara Duncan, 1B/P Caitlin Duncan, 2B Madison Smith, OF Riley Royer, OF Liliana Hoyle, OF Destiny Vernon
Comment: Six returning starters gives Yellow Jackets hope to contend this year after abbreviated 2021 season.

Coach: Joni Wellmon (4th year, 17-23)
Assistant coaches: Tracy Gardo, Imone Howze
2021 record: 8-5, 8-4
Returning players: CF Maura Pendleton, P/IF Sayge Strange
Top newcomers: none listed
Comment: Eight returning starters give Bulldogs hope of title contention after making first state playoff appearance since 2015 last year.

Coach: A.J. Henley (6th year)
Assistant coaches: Jeff Williams, Bailey Scronce
2021 record: 7-7, 5-2
Returning players: P Raegan Nowowiecki, 1B/DH Aleigha Whisnant, LF Rileigh Kiser, SS/CF Kaitlyn Newsome, 3B/1B Riley Bryant, SS/RF/P Layla Davis
Top newcomers: LF Alana Barrett, RF Kylie Jackson, RF/DH Tyler Digh, RF Monica Moss, C Alexis McSwain, CF Emma Proctor, 3B Ava Miller, SS
Krista Davis, 2B Landyn McBride, RF Chloee Stroupe
Comment: Six returning starters give Cherryville hope of title contention.

East Gaston
Coach: Hayley Stewart
2021 record: 5-9, 3-9
No information provided

Highland Tech
Coach: Carl Beam
2021 record: 1-6, 1-5
No information provided

Coach: Haley Barrett
2021 record: 8-5, 7-5
No information provided


Western Foothills 3A

East Lincoln
Coach: Roger Wilson (1st year)
Assistant coaches: Mike Freeman, Chris Crowe, Brian Gust
2021 record: 16-2, 13-1
Returning players: CF Taliyah Thomas, C Betsy Eatmon, LF Jaelyn Freeston, 1B Bailey Hardin
Top newcomers: OF Taniyah Thomas, OF/SS Hailey McFadden, P Leah Correl, P Maddison Currence, P Meredith Bolen
Comment: Mustangs have six returning starters from last year’s fourth round 2A playoff team.

North Lincoln
Coach: Breanna Tapp
2021 record: 9-5, 9-5
No information provided


Catawba Valley 2A

Coach: Clint Eley
2021 record: 0-14, 0-14
No information provided

West Lincoln
Head coach: Allan Chapman (5th year, 34-31)
Assistant coaches: Allen Hoyle, Rylee Pittman, Dallas Bridges
2021 record: 7-7, 7-7
Returning players: C Bailey Huss, P/3B Gracie Elmore, OF Kayla Wehunt, P Harlie Burton, 1B Etta Godfrey, OF Farrah Richardson
Top newcomers: OF Chloe Norman, P/3B Stacia Cowan, IF Addison Wright
Comment: Rebels have six top returning players is hopes of competing for Catawba Valley 2A title.


Catawba Shores 1A/2A

Lincoln Charter
Coach: Taylor Putnam (10th year, 151-39)
Assistant coaches: Jeff McGee, Rodney Coleman, Kyra Johnson
2021 record: 7-3, 7-0
Returning players: SS Maggie Pannone, C Sarah Terrell
Top newcomers: P Mia Hammond
Comment: After COVID restrictions knocked Eagles out of playoffs last season, they’ll be motivated to make a postseason return.

Mountain Island Charter
Coach: Eric Brown (2nd year, 15-1)
Assistant coach: Joe Hatzopoulos
2021 record: 15-1, 12-0
Returning players: 3B/SS Kaylan Brown, SS Camden Gerland
Top newcomers: Utility Raegan Hart, 2B Casey Haigler, OF Emma Calhoun
Comment: A combination of veterans and newcomers could make the Eagles a title contender after they advanced to the fourth round last season.


Metro 8 1A

Piedmont Community Charter
Coach: Matthew East (1st year)
2021 record: 5-8, 1-7
No information provided


Metrolina Athletic

Gaston Christian
Coach: Brandon Messick (1st year)
Assistant coaches: Lauren Adams, Mike Kennedy
2021 record 1-11, 1-14
Returning players: P Katie Muchesko, SS Olivia Kennedy, C Lauren Franklin, 3B Carson Hill
Top newcomers: 1B Kendall Jones, OF/2B Emmie Rushing
Comment: After a challenging 2021 season, Eagles look to get back in title mix with a roster of one senior, four sophomores, five freshmen and four middle schoolers.