April 8, 2024

East Ridge Softball: A Tradition Of Excellence

3 min read| Published On: April 8th, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

East Ridge Softball: A Tradition Of Excellence

3 min read| Published On: April 8th, 2024|

The 2024 version of the East Ridge softball team is off to an excellent 9-3 start but this is nothing new for the Knights and Coach Al Peterson.  In his 9th season at the helm, the Knights sport an impressive 147-68 record under Peterson and have reached two regional semifinals and two regional finals since 2018.  The Knights were 27-3 in 2018, 22-8 in 2019 and off to a 7-0 start in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.  So as you can see, this isn’t their first rodeo…or should we say, joust, in the case of the Knights. 

(Hailey Hunt takes a swing. She’s been one of the best hitters on the team. Hunt is averaging .674 with 31 hits. She has 13 RBI’s and 6 doubles. Photo Credit – Cecil Ramsey.)

Peterson took over as coach of the Knights in the 2016 season and after an inaugural campaign  which saw them go 9-15, the Knights went to work. When asked what has contributed most to the team’s success over the last several years, Peterson didn’t hesitate and said, “we started a summer workout program that merged into a year round program of strength training and skill development.  That along with the combination of several players playing travel ball has 100% contributed to our success.”

As mentioned earlier, the Knights are off to an impressive 9-3 start this season.  What’s even more impressive is that they have scored 154 runs in those 12 games and only given up 48.  That’s an offense that is averaging a scorching 12.8 runs per game and a defense only giving up 4 runs per game.  Wait…did I mention that their 3 losses are by a combined 5 runs!  Yes, two losses by 2 runs and one loss by 1 run.  

(Veronica Peterson has been a joy to watch this season. 26 RBIs, with 34 hits and 23 runs scored. She is an amazing athlete. Photo Credit – Cecil Ramsey.)

The firepower behind their potent lineup starts at the top of their batting order…Hailey Hunt and Veronica Peterson.  Hunt, a senior Tennessee State signee, and leadoff hitter for the Knights is currently sporting a .659 batting average, .700 on base percentage, 29 runs scored, 29 hits, 13 RBIs and 9 stolen bases.  Batting in the second spot in the order is sophomore Veronica Peterson.  Not to be outdone by Hunt, she’s currently hitting .673 with a .692 on base percentage, 22 runs, 26 RBIs(team leading), 12 stolen bases(team leading) and 33 hits(team leading).  The offensive output doesn’t end with the two spark plugs at the top of the lineup. 

The Knights boast four other regular starters with batting averages that are .400 or better…Bailey Page(.462), Amberlynn Collins(.452), Olivia Shoemaker(.429) and McKenna DeMartino(.432).  DeMartino is a two way specialist for the Knights as she is also a pitcher and has the lowest ERA on the team at 3.17 through 28 ⅔ innings, while having hit 2 homeruns and driving in 21 runs offensively.  Shoemaker, a junior,  is also a top producer for the Knights with a homer of her own to go along with 18 hits, 15 RBIs and 5 doubles.  Rounding out the pitching rotation with Demartino is junior Sariah Espada.  The junior has logged a team leading 29 innings in the circle and has a 4.34 ERA while striking out 28 batters.  

(McKenna DeMartino takes a swing. She is 2nd on the team with 23 RBIs and has 20 hits. She has scored 10 runs. Photo Credit – Cecil Ramsey.)

When asked what it would take for his team to get “over the hump” and to that elusive final four, Peterson didn’t hesitate and said, “It takes everything falling into place to reach the final four and even to win a state championship.  Also, when you reach the regional final, you normally run into a team with multiple D1 prospects and one of them is usually a pitcher which makes it really tough.”  He stated that both years they reached the regional finals, they faced teams that had players that are now seniors at UF and UCF respectively.  

Having only three seniors means that the Knights will be expected to have another stellar season next year.  As with most teams, it will be a next woman up mentality according to Peterson and the underclassmen will have to work hard in the offseason to fill the roles vacated by the three seniors that are graduating this year.  Filling those roles won’t be easy but as Coach Peterson said, “our underclassmen are working hard and will continue to work hard to fill the roles in hopes of no drop off and we plan to continue the success of the East Ridge softball program.”

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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