Lake Norman Charter is off to its best start in school history with (from left) Allison Schimmoller, Khristen McPherson, Jenna Carter, Emily Reinstadtler and Marissa Romeo leading the charge.
HUNTERSVILLE – On paper, this year’s Lake Norman Charter softball team closely resembles the one the Knights fielded last year, but that’s where the similarities end.
Last season the Knights went 14-6 and finished in second place in the Big South 2A/3A conference. It was a good season, but nothing like what’s happening this year.
They opened the year with a 10-4 win over North Meck and have not slowed down as they’re currently 13-1 overall and 11-1 in league play.
So what has been the biggest change to turn a good team into one of the best 2A clubs in the state?
“We didn’t really lose very much last year since we only lost two seniors,” said senior infielder Jenna Carter. “We had a couple of freshmen come in with the same skill level. We’re basically the same team as we were last year, but we’re just closer this year and we have all developed as a team.
“Another thing is we all contribute at the plate and everyone has been up to bat and contributed at some point during the year. (Sophomore reserve) Jenna Johnson just hit a three-run home run (in a 12-1 win over Stuart Carmer on April 7) which was insane. It’s been all of us at the plate and in the field. We have a good defense, we’re able to cheer on the pitchers and everyone is working well together all of the time.”
Carter is certainly doing her part.
The senior leads the team with a .627 batting average and has a team-high 32 hits to go with 25 runs scored, 18 RBIs and four extra-base hits.
But Carter hasn’t been alone in production, as the Knights are averaging nearly 10 runs per game and making quick work of most of their opponents with a deep and talented lineup.
“From the leadoff batters through the end of our batting order, everyone contributes as much as we can. There is no weakness,” said senior Marissa Romeo, who leads the team with 20 RBIs and is hitting .429 on the season.
“A lot of teams get worse as they get to the end of their lineups, but we don’t have that,” said senior Emily Reinstadtler. “Everyone is hitting and everyone contributes.”
Reinstadtler is batting .550 on the season with 20 runs scored, 12 RBIs and five extra-baste hits. She’s joined by Conyn Zogas (.360, 26 runs scored and 12 RBIs), Allison Schimmoller (.449, 19 RBIs), Hala Soliman (.477, 10 runs scored, 10 RBIs) and Khristen McPherson (.324) to form the bulk of the Knights potent group of run-producers.
“We just have raw talent,” Carter said. “We obviously practice and work hard, but a lot of us have good hand-eye coordination and we get to the ball really well. It also really helps not having all of the pressure on just one player and we know everyone in the lineup can bail you out or back you up if we need it, but we have a great lineup, one through nine, and we have a really good connection with each other that helps us out a lot.”
The Knights have scored double-digit runs in nine of their 14 games, which is often more than enough. With their potent bats driving in runs up and down their order, the Knights probably don’t need their power duo of Reinstadtler and McPherson from the circle, which has limited opponents to a little more than two runs per game and has allowed more than four runs just once – in a 12-9 win over East Gaston on April 4.
McPherson has been dominant, throwing 39 innings with 55 strikeouts while allowing just six earned runs. She’s 6-0 on the season with a microscopic 1.08 ERA. Reinstadtler has nearly matched that production, striking out 42 batters in 30 innings of work and posting a 1.87 ERA and a 4-1 record.
Sophomore Bekah Cook has also thrown well, going 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 20 innings of work.
Together, they are keeping opposing hitters off-balance and leading the Knights to their historic start.
“We have everyone behind us, and it makes our job so much easier,” McPherson said. “Even if we mess up we have people behind us to bail us out, and that’s very comforting knowing that they are in it with us.”
In addition to lights-out pitching and a solid lineup, the Knights have committed just 10 errors through 14 games and, according to McPherson, have another weapon at their disposal.
“We have a lot of team speed, too,” she said. “We are always putting pressure on teams with stealing bases or laying bunts down to get a hit. That really helps us generate runs if we need to.”
With all of the pieces in place, the Knights are hoping to keep what they’ve started going.
“This has been a really fun year,” Schimmoller said. “I’ve really liked getting to know everybody, and that’s what’s made it so much fun. You never like to lose, and we’ve been able to go out and win a lot of games, so it makes us want to keep going, and especially so in our last year together.”
The Knights have just two regular-season games on their schedule and close with a game at North Gaston – the only team to beat them this year – that will be for the for the Big South regular-season championship.
“We weren’t discouraged or anything by our loss because we played a solid game,” Carter said. “That just made us want to work that much harder to get back at it and we know we have them coming up next week and we’ll be ready.”
No matter how the regular season finishes up, the Knights will be one of the top seeds in the 2A bracket and will look to get out of the first round for the first time in three seasons.
And this group thinks they can do that and keep the fun going well into the next couple of months.
“This year has been so much fun and it’s something we want to keep going as long as we can,” Reinstadtler said. “We’re all a lot closer and we’ve become friends with everyone. Last year we were separated a little bit, but we’re very tight knit this year. We work together very well and we enjoy being all together.
“We know we’re good, but we don’t want to take any team lightly and never let up.”