Raleigh softball exceeded expectations in 2019.
After reaching the Class 3A title game in 2018 and losing up to five seniors from that group, some people’s expectations for the 2019 season were low. But what Raleigh did this past season in 3A softball wasn’t too surprising to head coach Adam Case.
“It’s one of those things that if you build [up] a team long enough, even if you lose five starters, it shouldn’t affect you that much,” said Case. “I know it sounds crazy, but I knew all along that the girls moving up were just as good, if not better.”
Under his command, Raleigh advanced to the 3A South State title series and finished with an impressive 21-7 record. Choctaw Central, who also shares Region 5-3A with Raleigh, defeated the Lady Lions in the 3A South State series. Raleigh won the first game of the best-of-three series 7-6 in eight innings but fell in Game 2 and 3, 6-5 and 6-0.
“It’s always tough playing Choctaw Central,” Case said, “they’re in our district. We split the regular season series with them and met them again in South State. They’re one of the toughest teams we’ve ever played against.”
A part of Raleigh’s success in 2019 was due to what Case called “the one-two punch.”
“Holly was a ninth grader last year, so she’s pretty young,” said Case. “But she and senior Alex Johnson was our one-two punch. Having that was critical. Holly throws a little bit harder, but having the both of them allowed us to go through the season [with success].
Earlier in the season, Holly was involved in a wreck, and it put her out for a few games. A lot of teams only have one good pitcher, and situations like that would put a team down but Alex stepped right up, and we never missed a beat.”
Holly had one of the lowest ERA in 3A, boasting a 1.96 earned run average in 121.1 innings pitched. The sophomore finished the season with a win-loss record of 15-2. She allowed 34 earned runs on 69 hits and struck out an impressive 197 batters. Opponents hit just .154 against Holly. Johnson, as both a starter and relief pitcher, held a 5-5 record in 37 innings pitched.
Team chemistry was a key factor in Raleigh’s success.
“[Our young team] consisted of three sophomores and two eighth-graders,” said Case. “They loved playing together; I’ll just say that.”
Development at the junior varsity level has led to Raleigh’s repeated success.
“One thing that has helped me has been putting a big emphasis on junior varsity,” Case said. “It’s one of the most important things for us to build a good program and developing those young pitchers and players [at that level]. We want them to see a lot of field time and game time for those particular girls. And even when you’re up big in some games, we try to sub them in and give them game experiences.”
Case holds a 60-25-2 overall record in his three seasons as head coach of the Lady Lions. Case is our Sports601 2019 Softball Coach of the Year for the Jones, Jasper and Smith County coverage area.