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Emily Ross (right) would have led a young, but growing South Charleston softball team this season. She’ll get her chance next year, as the Black Eagles did not have a senior on the 2020 roster.

While St. Albans had assembled a talent-stacked roster this season, South Charleston wasn’t quite ready to hand the Red Dragons a Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 crown just yet.

The Black Eagles were set to return a big and experienced sophomore class, a multi-sport junior leader in Genevieve Potter and were welcoming in a pair of new assistant coaches in John Erby and Fred Beane that, according to head coach Chrissy Orcutt, had brought a whole new atmosphere with them this season.

“They had helped me tremendously,” Orcutt said. “The staff had jelled and everything was more enjoyable for our girls this year. We were having so much fun and that made it harder to let go of.”

The Black Eagles went 12-20 a year ago, but played better down the stretch, making life rough on St. Albans in the sectional tournament in 4-2 and 3-0 losses.

Third baseman Emily Ross (.420, 34 stolen bases) earned a second-team All-State spot as a freshman with classmate Hallie Dinklocker turning in a solid campaign in the outfield, hitting .387. Lexi Scarberry, yet another member of the 2022 class, led the team in innings pitched with 831/3, striking out 83 with a 4.37 ERA. Emma Falbo and Tori Wells were also starters as freshmen a year ago.

Orcutt said that group’s growth was evident early in practices this season.

“One of the best things we saw was how much all of our players had matured, we had a lot of key players last year that were very young,” Orcutt said. “It was the whole group. It was a completely different situation this year.”

A year ago, Scarberry had help in the circle from Grace Johnson, who graduated last spring. Orcutt said she expected incoming freshman Hope Sizemore to take up those innings with junior Lanie Hapney, who missed time with an injury a year ago, also figuring into the mix.

Offensively, the Black Eagles would’ve presented a bit of an uncommon challenge in an era in which home run totals seem to be skyrocketing. SC hit just nine home runs as a team a year ago with five of them hit by players who graduated.

But SC swiped 119 bases combined with 98 of those coming from players who returned this season. While Orcutt expected her squad’s power numbers to improve a bit with another year, the team’s speed up and down the lineup was a weapon that SC would have used often this season.

“We would have had people guessing what we were going to do in the box or running the bases,” Orcutt said. “When talking about offensive game planning, I go with my gut and what I feel is going to happen. Maybe we would have used a sac bunt just to get a runner over but they can all hit for power and extra bases too. Our girls like that element of surprise and impulsiveness. We have all the right personnel and the right mentality in the right places to do it. That might have been the scariest thing about us – our unpredictability.”

Fortunately for South Charleston, the roster is without a senior, meaning the entire squad will return next year. As a junior who was prepared to start for a third year in her third sport after completing soccer and basketball seasons, Potter would have figured to be looked to for an additional leadership role. But Orcutt said Potter had already become a leader a year ago.

“At times Genevieve gets frustrated with herself, but it’s just the kind of player she is,” Orcutt said. “She expects to succeed every time she’s at bat or when she fields the ball, she expects to be perfect and when she doesn’t do that, she gets upset with herself. But another year, fresh out of basketball, there was definitely more maturity there too. But she’s always been someone we look to as a leader. She’s just one of those kids.”

With a group of talented youngsters and a returning roster completely intact, South Charleston seems to be building something that could eventually turn into something special.

Whether or not the Black Eagles could’ve cashed in on some of that potential this year will never be known, but Orcutt has her own beliefs on the matter.

“St. Albans would have been good, we don’t know what [coach] Antonio [Jimenez] would’ve done with those girls up at George Washington and even Capital had made some improvements,” Orcutt said. “It would’ve been a battle, but I’ll always stick with my girls.”

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.