In softball-crazy Granville County, J.F. Webb’s softball program has been working its way back toward an elite level under coach Leo Brunelli, who is best known for leading the Warriors’ boys basketball team to a state crown in 2013.
Brunelli took charge of the Webb softball program three years ago during a rebuilding cycle that came after an effective run that saw the Warriors win a conference title in 2011.
One of the first phone calls Brunelli made after accepting the position was to county rival South Granville coach Jackie Day to learn what the South Granville skipper had done to breathe some new life into a program that was dominant in the 1990s under the legendary Jimmy Fleming.
“You have to try to pick the brains of people who have been successful,” Brunelli said. “And coach Day has certainly been successful.”
Last spring, Webb (3-1) won 16 games and reached the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs without a senior in the starting lineup.
All nine of those performers are back in the fold this time around, led by pitching standouts Mary Anna Clement (another Louisburg College signee) and Hailee Cutts.
“We are right there,” Brunelli said of his club’s chances in the competitive Big 8 3A Conference. “We just have to push it over the top. We have come a long way from where we were. You can learn a lot from winning and losing. How you respond the next day in practice after a game like this shows the true character of a team.”
Even though the Warriors now boast a veteran lineup – which is quite the change from when Brunelli first took over – the club still boasts only four seniors.
Still, the leadership is there, mainly because so many of Webb’s players have started since their freshman campaigns.
Brunelli also has the luxury of working with three performers who are the daughters of coaches – including his own daughter, sophomore outfielder Kaitlin Brunelli.
Junior leadoff hitter and shortstop Kory Hammett (who has verbally committed to Lenoir-Rhyne) and sophomore catcher Taylor Hammett are the children of Granville Central head football coach and athletic director John Hammett.
Their mother, Christy Currin, was a member of Louisburg College’s National Junior College Athletic Association women’s basketball national championship team in 1992 before concluding her successful hoops career at Barton College.