Southern Durham junior J’Naya Ephraim hadn’t played softball in seven years, but caught the bug again after watching the Spartans play Voyager Academy on March 8, a 25-12 loss.
The very next day, Ephraim – who was fresh off basketball season in which she was named Big 8 Conference player of the year – suited up and started right away. She led the way with a inside-the-park grand slam as the Spartans defeated Hillside 30-20.
“I told coach I wanted to play and he said, ‘Come on.’ I was nervous ‘cause everybody was watching me, but she (Hillside pitcher Neah Stevens) brought it down the middle, and I just hit it,” said Ephraim, now a four-sport athlete also runs track and plays volleyball. “Coach told me to just run, and I just took off and was happy to bring all my teammates in.”
Southern may have lost six straight, but its 3-7 mark is the best in years. Spartans coach Randy Grissom said he knew the program had turned a corner after the team’s win over Durham School of the Arts in its season opener. It was the school’s first softball victory in four years.
“Over the last few years, it’s been kind of rough,” Grissom said. “It’s kind of given the girls a boost of confidence. My freshman class has come in and performed very well.”
Southern’s roster consists of two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen.
The Spartans have a big series next week when they play winless Northern Vance.