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.
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“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.