2023 high school softball previews: Crest, Burns, East Lincoln and Lincoln Charter are favorites in their leagues

By Richard Walker

After winning their respective leagues last season, four area teams are favorites to repeat as the 2023 softball season begins.

Crest is the overwhelming favorite in the Big South 3A with Burns favored in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A, East Lincoln in the Western Foothills 3A and Lincoln Charter in the Catawba Shores 1A/2A.

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: Jake Eccles (1st year)
2022 record: 1-15, 1-13
No information provided

Coach: James Brown (3rd year, 29-9)
Assistant coaches: Becca Hill, Nicole Cauthen
2022 record: 20-4, 12-2
Returning players: SS Payton Conroy, P Emma Donaldson, 3B Delani Wilson, 1B Addy Marr, C Madison Lee, 2B Hadley Womack, LF Colleen Grealis, RF Riley Lavinder
Top newcomers: none listed

Coach: Greg Earl (22nd year, 304-98)
Assistant coaches: Tracy Beaver, Kaylee Wacaster
2022 record: 24-3, 14-0
Returning players: OF Molly Beam, IF Addie Beaver, OF Taylor Black, OF Nevaeh Blackwell, IF Makenzie Clark, IF Abby Edwards, IF Madison Emery, P/IF Aiden Ledbetter, OF Jaylen Ledbetter, IF Jourdan Martin, OF Riley Parker, C/IF Ella Shope, IF Sara Rose Warlick
Top newcomers: P/IF Maddie Bowen, C/OF Madison Crocker, IF Hayden Lail, OF Maggie Webb

Coach: Kevin Baker (13th year, 107-132)
Assistant coaches: Carissa White, Kevin Gordon
2022 record: 13-11, 8-6
Returning players: IF/OF Bryn Bumgardner, 1B Kaitlin Barnes, IF Karson Sloop, OF Blair Riley, P/2B Olivia Hensley, 3B/1B Lily Cabe, 3B/OF Madison Ladin, OF/IF Megan Baker, OF/C Allie Osborne
Top newcomers: C Miley Skidmore, P/3B Kayla Johnson, IF Kaitlyn Baker

Coach: Victoria Powell (2nd year, 1-15)
Assistant coach: Tega Bell
2022 record: 1-15, 1-13
Returning players: IF Madison Gunn, IF Meadow Haluska, IF Trinity Swann, IF Sani Robinson, IF Brooklyn Swann, IF Madison Lackey, Utility Zion Martin
Top newcomers: Utility Jalia Davidson, IF Brooklyn Belton, Utility Cedraya Matthews, Utility Makinna Mackey, IF Olivia Brannon

Kings Mountain
Coach: Kevin Cruise (7th year, 57-40)
Assistant coaches: Jeff Cloninger, Cassie King, Shon Macopson
2022 record: 10-12, 8-6
Returning players: C Austyn Dixon, P/SS Kali Weaver, IF Alayna Patrick, IF Paige Fleming
Top newcomers: P/SS Madaline Huffman, OF Ava Tipton

North Gaston
Coach: Stephen Bates (2nd year, 13-11)
Assistant coaches: Raven Gray, Wes Culberson, Brandon Messick
2022 record: 13-11, 10-4
Returning players: P/3B Megan Towery, SS Caroline Allred, 1B/3B Gracie Nichols
Top newcomers: 3B/CF Syndee Walls, Skylar Smith, Layla Love

South Point
Coach: Leah Brooks (10th year, 83-92)
Assistant coaches: Erin Young, Todd Secrest, Allison Moody, Leslie Hicks
2022 record: 5-15, 4-10
Returning players: IF Kendall Martin, IF Annie Risk, OF Maggie Mizell, OF Jordan Coffey, IF Katie Hovis, OF Ashea Wilson, OF Star Lacy, OF
Lylian Kelly, IF/OF Zoe Schamberger
Top newcomers: IF Cailey Evans, IF Madison Bridges, IF Madison Quesenberry, IF Lila Hux, OF Ava Wilson, IF Mallory Stafford, IF/OF Josie Patterson, OF Josie Grimes, IF Taylan Ledford


Southern Piedmont 1A/2A

Bessemer City
Coach: Lindsey Shumaker (9th year, 97-66)
2022 record: 4-16, 3-9
No information provided

Coach: Joni Wellmon (5th year, 39-27)
Assistant coaches: Tracy Gardo, Imone Howze
2022 record: 22-4, 11-1
Returning players: P/IF Sayge Strange, SS Jaycee Bivins, 3B Hunter Morgan
Top newcomers: none listed

Coach: A.J. Henley (7th year, 72-37)
2022 record: 16-9, 10-2
No information provided

East Gaston
Coach: Hayley Stewart (3rd year, 17-22)
2022 record: 12-13, 9-3
No information provided

Highland Tech
Coach: Pedro Truesdale (1st year)
2022 record: 7-16, 3-9
No information provided

Coach: Haley Barrett (6th year, 28-44)
2022 record: 14-12, 7-5
No information provided

Thomas Jefferson
Coach: Donnie Dunkle (2nd year, 1-15)
2022 record: 1-15, 0-12


Western Foothills 3A

East Lincoln
Coach: Roger Wilson (2nd year, 24-1)
Assistant coaches: Mike Freeman, Chris Crowe, Brian Gust, Shannon Mas
2022 record: 24-1, 14-0
Returning players: SS/CF Taniyah Thomas, OF/1B Tatum Martin, P Leah Correll, LF/2B Jaelyn Freeston, 3B/P Madison Currence
Top newcomers: CF/P Katelyn Gust, C/1B Lyla Haywood, 1B/3B Olivia Cato, P/1B Emma Calhoun

North Lincoln
Coach: Breanna Tapp (8th year, 87-50)
2022 record: 19-9, 11-3
No information provided


Catawba Valley 2A

Coach: Clint Eley (2nd year, 7-15)
Assistant coach: Erin Edwards
Returning starters: 7
Starters lost: 1
2022 record: 7-15, 5-9
Returning players: P Tanlee Eley, CF Karlie Williams, 3B Brooklynn Johnson, C Bailey Hollar
Top newcomers: SS Kat Parker, 1B/OF Akira Connor
Season outlook: Eley looks to build on the momentum of last year’s team, which had the school’s first winning season and made the first playoff berth since 2018.
All-time record: 525-675-1 since 1963 (1st known team is 1925)

West Lincoln
Head coach: Allan Chapman (6th year, 53-38)
Assistant coaches: Allen Hoyle, Travis Sutton, Dallas Bridges
2022 record: 19-7, 13-1
Returning players: C Bailey Huss, RF Chloe Norman, 3B/1B Gracie Elmore, P Harlie Burton, SS Carolina Robinson, 2B Addisyn Robinson, Utility .
Amelia May, P/1B Stacia Cowan, OF Anna Beiberich
Top newcomers: OF Korragan Hullette, OF Laura Willis

Catawba Shores 1A/2A

Lincoln Charter
Coach: Taylor Putnam (11th year, 165-44)
Assistant coaches: Jeff McGee, Rodney Coleman, Kyra Johnson, Josie Hansen
2022 record: 14-5, 7-1
Returning players: C Sarah Terrell, P Mia Hammond, SS Maggie Pannone

Mountain Island Charter
Coach: Orleans Araujo (1st year)
Assistant coach: John Bridges
2022 record: 14-7, 7-1
Returning players: SS/OF Regan Hart, 3B/OF Nora Bryant, CF Aubrey White, OF Ellie Hatzopoulos, IF Kaylee Addington
Top newcomers: C Camden Addington, OF/3B Bella Bergman, OF Elizabeth Burcham, 1B/C Riley Fleming, 2B/P Izabel Leppert, IF/P Harleigh Reece


Metro 8 1A

Piedmont Community Charter
Coach: Sam Schmidt (1st year)
2022 record: 10-6, 5-1
Returning players: SS/c Abigail Harris, P/3B Ashton Kenna, CF Reagan Swanger
Top newcomers: C Chloe Baker, OF/P Sophia Gibson, 1B Bailee Roper


Metrolina Athletic

Gaston Christian
Coach: Tiffany Penley (1st year)
Assistant coaches: Jocelyn McCarn, Ashley Jones, Trae Farthing
2022 record: 3-12, 3-5
Returning players: Shankel Carey, Alexis Gantt, Lana Hanson, Oakleigh Herring, Carson Hill, Kendall Jones, Olivia Kennedy, Katie Muchesko, Ciara Nanney, Emmie Rushing
Top newcomers: Abby Oliver, Lydia Robinson, Leila Stewart