Slowly, but surely, the Herndon High girls' softball program is making progress and becoming more and more the type of squad third year head coach Roy Amps envisions it becoming.
The Hornets won just one game in Amps' first season at the helm in 2009, and followed that up with three victories last year. This spring will undoubtedly see Herndon improve in greater measure. The team has impressed its coach early on with exceptional defensive play over its first three games, two of those resulting in wins.
"We've had a good start," said Amps, a longtime girls' high school softball coach in Northern Virginia who became the Herndon head coach after former coach Bonnie O'Hearn, who led the Hornets to the Northern Region finals in her final season in 2008, stepped down due to health issues. "The good defense is expected. Our strength is definitely our defense. We've been playing solid [in the field] all the way around - from the outfield to the infield, to catcher to pitcher. In our first two games, we had no errors. And our pitching was good."
Amps said his squad is young overall, with just one full-time starter from a year ago back in the line-up, that being Heather Ferguson, who as a freshman in 2010 earned All-Concorde District Honorable Mention accolades. Ferguson, a versatile ballplayer, can play catcher, third base, or in the outfield. Amps is still making decisions with a number of his players as to where they will play defensively.
Herndon's 15-player roster is made up of three seniors, two juniors, five sophomores, and five freshmen. Some of the team's key players this spring, along with Ferguson, include: senior first baseman/right fielder Katie Thomas; freshmen pitcher/outfielder Sarah Kurtz; junior pitcher/right fielder Michelle Le; freshmen catcher Morgan Fries; junior second baseman Leta Kent; and freshmen shortstop Carly Shue.
Both Kurtz and Le have seen action on the mound this season, with Kurtz earning the decision in Herndon's 4-0 win at South Lakes on March 14, and Le getting the `W' in the Seahawks' 8-0 home victory over Washington-Lee on March 16.
Kurtz, the freshmen, began the season playing shortstop. But Amps likes the ninth grader's demeanor, pitching prowess, and defensive ability on the mound.
"She consistently keeps the ball down and her fielding is impressive," said the coach, of Kurtz.
Herndon will likely be solid both defensively and on the mound this season. But in order to compete and win games in the ever-tough Concorde District, the Hornets are going to have to hit the ball and score runs with consistency. Amps said his team is showing good early season progress at the plate.
"We will continue working on our offensive game," said the coach. "We'll see good pitching."
HERNDON is scheduled to play a road game at Loudoun Valley, a non-region opponent and member of the Cedar District, this Friday evening, April 1 at 5 p.m. Then, next week, the Hornets will begin a four-game stretch of district contests leading up to spring break week (April 16-23). Those district outings will be at Oakton (next Tuesday, April 5) and Centreville (Friday, April 8); followed by home games versus Westfield (Tuesday, April 12) and Robinson (Friday, April 15).
Over spring break, Herndon will participate at the first annual T.C. Williams Invitational in Alexandria. The Hornets, on Saturday afternoon, April 16, are scheduled to play Invitational games versus George Mason High at 1 and Franklin D. Roosevelt (N.Y.) at 3. Herndon will also play Invitational games two days later on Monday, April 18.
Amps said he should have a much better idea of his team's potential following its initial district games over the next couple of weeks followed by the spring break contests.
The coach likes the make-up and look of his team.
"We're more balanced this year overall," he said. "Our goals are [higher]. Coming together is the main thing because we have a new group of kids."
Herndon did not field a JV team last year, but has one this season. The 13-member JV squad is under the direction of coach Lucy Bawiec.