By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Lady Blue Devils Locked And Loaded For Success


March 7, 2019

Jeremiah Reed

The 2019 Brevard High School softball team.

The Brevard Lady Blue Devils may have lost some key pieces from their 2018 squad, but make no mistake about it, this year's team enters the season with all the ingredients that could make them one of the teams to beat when the playoffs roll around.

Brevard went 19-4 last season, but that record is deceptive.

Outside of a fluke loss in a spring break tournament game in Myrtle Beach, the Lady Blue Devils dropped three contests all year.

One was a 2-0 loss to an undefeated Madison squad in the second round of the 2A playoffs.

The other two, which were both decided in the final inning, came against Franklin – the 2018 2A state runner-up.

Now, everybody is hoping that 2019 is Brevard's year.

"I think we're going to look pretty good," said Lady Blue Devil head coach David McNeill. "Right now, we're trying to fill a couple of spots that we lost from last year, but we're bringing Sydney (Gilbert) back and she'll be in the circle for us pitching. What we're focusing on early is getting our hitting going. Once we do that, I think we'll be in great shape."

Brevard goes into this season with five departures from graduation.

That includes all-conference selection Brooke Nanney and other pieces of the starting lineup.

Taking Nanney's place at third base will be junior Keally Owen.

The other change in the infield is behind the plate, as Makenna Wilson takes over as catcher.

Wilson, also a junior, played in center field last year, but previously spent time behind the dish as a freshman.

The rest of the infield remains the same, with Taylor Miner at first base and the all-conference tandem of Hannah Cabe and Kathryn Hart holding down shortstop and second base, respectively.

"(Cabe and Hart) put together a tremendous middle infield," McNeill said. "We had very few errors last year and they made some great plays. We never gave up more than five runs in a game last year. A lot of that goes back to pitching, but our defense is very good."

Pitching is something Brevard rarely has to worry about thanks to Gilbert, who enters her junior campaign after somehow improving on her gaudy freshman numbers last season when she went 18-4 with a 1.27 ERA.

On top of that, she helps her own cause, having led the Lady Blue Devils last season in batting average (.493), RBIs (39) and hits (34).

In short, there are few players in the state that can dominate a game like Gilbert.

"To be honest, I can't put into words how important she is for us. She played a lot of ball over the summer and some fall ball, so she comes back even stronger than she was last year. She's got a lot of movement on her pitches. And as far as hitting, she's got one of the most powerful swings I've ever seen for a female athlete in high school," McNeill said.

As for the rest of the lineup, Brevard turns to freshman Emilee Long to take over in center field.

McNeill said she is a speedy player and expects her to be ready to contribute from day one.

Junior Brinley Horrell also takes over one of the vacant outfield positions.

McNeill is expecting sophomore Maggi Masters to split time between jayvee and varsity.

McNeill said while the outfield will feature some new faces, he likes the athleticism the new crop brings to the defense.

"Our outfielders are going to be new, but I think the additional speed will be helpful, and they're talented. They can move and they can run balls down quickly," he said.

Although Brevard scored an average of nine runs per game last year, McNeill said his only trepidation going into this season is the lack of time his team has had to go up against live pitching.

That being said, along with Gilbert, Hart finished in the top four on the team in batting average, RBIs and hits last season.

Cabe was top four in RBIs and hits.

All these pieces bring with them expectations.

Last year, Franklin won the Mountain Six Conference, going undefeated in the regular season and ultimately losing only three games all year, with two coming in the championship series.

But the Panthers lost their ace, Haeli Bryson, to graduation, leaving the Mountain Six wide open for the Lady Blue Devils.

That's not to say winning the conference is a foregone conclusion, but it's something Brevard clearly believes is theirs for the taking.

"I didn't make any bones about it, our goal this year is to win the conference and make a deep run in the playoffs. That's the expectation and anything shy of that, I'm going to feel like we didn't get where we should have," McNeill said.

The last time the Lady Blue Devils put together a deep playoff run was in 2016.

That year, Brevard made it to the fourth round after knocking off top seed West Stanly in the third round.

McNeill isn't shying away from the idea that this team is capable of such a run, and he's challenged his players to channel their energy and come up with a special season.

"The girls are very excited. I think we've got great potential to do some good things. I tell the girls every day that it's all about them. It's all about how hard they want to work and making sure they show up ready to play every game," he said.


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