Bobby Matthews accepted a rebuilding effort when he took over as Western Harnett’s softball coach two years ago. The team was coming off records of 4-13 and 5-15-2 the previous two years.
But this hasn’t turned out to be as much of a long-term effort as he might have feared, even though the Eagles (5-12, 2-5) are below .500 and play in the competitive Two Rivers 3A Conference.
One reason has been Western Harnett surprised the league last year when the Eagles slipped into the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs. The other is Matthews has a talented freshman pitcher to build around this season and the next three to come in Raynee Reddington.
“We talked to her and her father about the program, and she played with us during summer ball as a rising freshman,” Mitchell said. “That was good for her and the team to get to know each other. She is an aggressive pitcher with speed and a good arm. She can play other positions, but we need her to pitch.”
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The only mild surprise to Mitchell has been how quickly Reddington has adapted to pitching against mature hitters.
“She’s played a lot of travel ball, so she’s used to facing good competition,” Matthews said. “It’s a big jump to play in our conference, but she’s played a lot of softball. This isn’t new to her.”
She struck out four in only five innings of mercy-rule work against Smithfield-Selma to bump her season total to 42 through nine games.
“I’m feeling good about the season,” said Reddington, who pitches right-handed but is a switch-hitter. “I thought I would have fewer strikeouts.”
A pitcher in softball is more instrumental to a team’s success than even as a vital position in baseball, but Reddington likes shouldering the load.
“You help your team, and your team is there to help you,” she said.
Despite her potential, Reddington said she didn’t consider playing for a program with a richer history.
“I knew a lot of girls from playing travel ball,” she said. “We’ve bonded as a team. I wanted to play here.”