The Winthrop University softball team is off to an encouraging 8-6 start and the Golden Eagles are getting major contributions from a pair of Jonathan Alder High School graduates.
The Division I program located in Rock Hill, South Carolina has won four of its last five games with sophomores Mady Watson and Tori Walker contributing mightily. Yes the same two athletes that helped grow the Jonathan Alder softball program into a state powerhouse.
For Alder coach Dave McGrew getting a chance to watch his former players excel at the D-I college level is as rewarding as an experience as he’s had as a coach.
“I tell you it’s fantastic to see,” the coach said. “To be able to sit down and watch Winthrop and (University of ) Georgia play and see Mady Watson batting eighth and Tori Walker batting ninth it’s a proud moment.”
Watson, a pitcher who also hits is currently sporting a 2-2 record with a 5.64 ERA. She is one of four Eagles pitchers who have seen time inside the pitching circle this season. In 22.1 innings pitched Watson has 18 strikeouts and allowed seven walks. Shes surrendered 31 hits and 22 runs thus far.
Watson is getting pitching time behind Winthrop junior Kiley Majette who has won the Big South Conference Pitcher of the Week honors twice already this season.
While at Jonathan Alder, Watson was one of the Lady Pioneers best hitters. She’s shown an ability to hit the ball in her limited time at the plate this season with the Eagles she’s hitting .250 with three RBI this season.
Making the transition from the high school game to Division I college softball isn’t easy. The coach knows that even a player like Watson who lives the game, has had to make the adjustment.
“For Mady softball is life,” McGrew said. “She eats, drinks and sleeps it, it’s a full-course meal. As a coaching staff we all knew she was going to do her thing there. But she’s got a lot of work to do. Playing D-I is a whole different level of softball and she’s been doing a great job.”
One of the things the coach said he’s been happy to see is Watson’s continued growth and maturity paying off on the softball diamond.
“Mady plays with this vigor,” he said. “I’m glad to see the maturity she had with us has transferred to college. She’s only going to get better. She’s behind Majette right now, but I think she has what it takes to one day become that No. 1 there.”
The path to playing in college wasn’t nearly as clear for Walker.
Like Watson, she was a first team Division II All-Ohio player with Alder, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to play in college.
Walker, a second baseman, walked on at Wright State University after high school, but coaching changes and such shifted her softball direction. She ended up at Winthrop and has been on the field for every one of the Eagles games this season.
She’s one of five players who have started all 14 games thus far. She’s hitting .182 with a pair of doubles. She’s walked six times, scored three runs and has a couple stolen bases. Seeing her get herself back in the swing of things is something McGrew has enjoyed seeing.
“Tori as always been one of my favorites coming up,” the Alder coach said. “As far as playing in college, it was a later decision. She walked on at Wright State but she just stayed after it and ended up down there.
“She’s started every game down there and is playing well. It’s just great to see.”
The success of players like Watson and Walker have helped grow the Alder softball program in recent years.
“They planted the flag and were real pioneers for our program,” McGrew said. “So many girls are playing softball at younger ages in Plain City because they were able to see what these girls were able to do in high school and now in college.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.
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