Royal Oak High softball turning things around

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2019

  1 Royal Oak High junior outfielder Rachel Walkowicz hits the ball April 11 in a home game against Berkley High. The Ravens beat the Bears 11-1 to improve to 2-1, at press time.

1 Royal Oak High junior outfielder Rachel Walkowicz hits the ball April 11 in a home game against Berkley High. The Ravens beat the Bears 11-1 to improve to 2-1, at press time.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Royal Oak pitcher Jacey Needham throws a pitch in a recent home game against Berkley. The junior struck out seven in the win.

Royal Oak pitcher Jacey Needham throws a pitch in a recent home game against Berkley. The junior struck out seven in the win.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROYAL OAK — Two years ago, in her first season at the helm of Royal Oak High softball, coach Erica Hayworth’s team won 12 games in a 33-game schedule. 

In the very next season, the Ravens nearly doubled their win total, finishing 21-12 overall and making it to a Division 1 district tournament final.

“When I took over, the girls were excited that the new coach was intense and was going to push them to work hard,” Hayworth said, as the Ravens compete in the Oakland Activities Association White Division. “Myself and my coaching staff have high expectations for our program, and we won’t accept mediocrity. The girls have invested a lot of time in the offseasons now, and many are involved in travel ball, which was not the case before I arrived. Their knowledge, skill set and love for the game of softball continuously grows”

Hayworth said the most drastic change is the team’s work ethic. The Ravens push each other every day to be the best versions of themselves both on and off the field. The seniors were ready for change, and they took it upon themselves to create it.

“During my sophomore year, we we’re not in a good place,” senior Sierra Randle said. “It’s nice to see us being able to move up and compete with teams who push us to our full potential.”

Senior Anna Ross attributed the turnaround and the success to her coach.

“She came in and she taught us how to believe in ourselves, to work hard and what a practice should be like,” Ross said. “I think we just all work way harder then we used to.”

At press time, the Ravens were 2-1 overall having just won their last two games against Hazel Park High and Berkley High. 

Royal Oak has a nice mix of veteran and underclassmen talent on the roster, with Randle and Ross leading the way. Hayworth expects big things from those players this year. They bat in the heart of the order, while holding down the left side of the infield at third base and at shortstop, respectively.

Starting catcher Casey Meissner is another name to look out for this season. The senior has held the job down for three years and has improved each season.

Leaving the program last year was pitcher Marissa Kryak, who held the position for four years. Riley Cross takes her place in the circle. Hayworth said the sophomore has worked really hard in the offseason and earned her spot. 

Freshman Jordan Eyster leads off for the Ravens and starts in center field. Her coach called her a player to watch this year. Sophomore Kaitlyn Menzo is a captain and she earned that spot by stepping up in the leadership department. She can often be found leading the team in stretches before a game.

The Ravens still have some things to accomplish before the rebuild is complete. Winning a district and more are on the list, but there are things that can happen along the way to ensure that the Ravens are trending in the right direction.

“Honestly, going out and winning,” Hayworth said. “They can work hard all day, but going out, winning and pushing runs across the board, I think, will let them know that success is achievable, and they’ve done exactly what they needed to do.”

Call Sports Writer Jacob Herbert at (586) 498-1062. Follow Sports on Twitter @CandGSports.

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