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J.S. Waters, Bonlee split softball title; Pollard runs away on trail, pitch

PITTSBORO — Perfect 10s became 9-1 records for J.S. Waters and Bonlee schools. A handful of errors on one off afternoon for each squad got in the way of an unblemished season and an outright championship.

Bonlee beat J.S. Waters.

J.S. Waters beat Bonlee.  

"I still think about it,” Bonlee coach John Shaner said. “It was against J. S. Waters, who, I thought going into the season, was the team to beat."The 2018 Bonlee School softball team included (front row, left to right) Tally Davis, Brandi Lopossay, Ameriah Attia, Kelsey Taylor and Hailey White; (back row, left to right) Coach John Shaner, Venessa Nunez, SaraKate Howard, Olivia Brooks, Cassie McKeithan, Jaylee Williams, Trinity Brooks and volunteer Carson Shaner.

It was déjà vu, J.S. Waters coach John Warf said.

“Last year, we split our games with Bonlee, and the girls wanted to not allow any losses this year,” Warf said. “They strived to hit their goal but were nervous going into the game. Once they settled down, they took control and played smart softball. Unfortunately, we allowed a few errors, which allowed Bonlee to have two runs too many.”

So Bonlee and J.S. Waters are 2018 Chatham County Schools middle school softball co-champions.

Margaret B. Pollard Middle School swept everything else there was to win in middle school sports in the district. That would be Coach David Bennett’s Mustang’s netting the title in boys’ soccer. Marty Goldman coaches both the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams at Pollard, and his squads handled their business during the district meet to secure championships.

“In regards to our success, I don't think we do anything different than other schools,” Pollard athletics director Aaron Kivette said. “Our coaches are very dedicated to their teams and work hard to make practice impactful. They are positive and do a great job motivating their players. I believe most of the other schools do that, as well. However, I do think larger student numbers give us an advantage by improving the chance of having strong teams. Some of our teams have as many students trying out as other [middle schools in the district] have in their grade levels or entire school. So, in my opinion, I believe that we are blessed in both areas — good coaching and a large, diverse student body.”

Shaner was on the wrong side of the numbers game before the softball season started.

"We lost so many girls last year," Shaner said.

Bonlee has 110 middle school students, and J.S. Waters has an even smaller group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at 97. Pollard, with 694 students, has a much larger pool from which to pull ballplayers. That disparity highlights what the student-athletes at Bonlee and J.S. Waters were able to achieve.  

“Going into the season, we just didn’t have as high of expectations as we had in the past,” Shaner said. “[But] after a week or two of practice and our first game, it hit me that this team might be pretty good and we could do something special.”

Warf had more to work with this past season.The 2018 J.S. Waters School softball team

“Many of the players were experienced in school softball since they had played the last couple of years. This year, we picked up two sixth-graders who contributed a great deal to the team,” Warf said. “[Next year], while losing six eighth-graders, we will strive to still be competitive in the [school system’s] softball league. We will have five returning players who have already shown leadership and the desire to step into new roles with the team. We will have two returning pitchers, and our catcher will be returning, as well.

“This team has been working and coming together for the last three years. Several of these girls were the first group of sixth-graders allowed to play middle school softball. We have been building and working to get to the goal of a championship season.”

Bonlee will have to rebuild again, but Shaner said it’s a been there-done that kind of thing, just like his current co-champs.  

"They just believed in themselves. I gave them an opportunity to do it. But they did it," Shaner said. "They really overachieved and believed in themselves and grew as a team.

"We talk about growth in the classroom, I wish we could have gotten a grade for the growth we showed on the softball field this year."

Published Nov. 26, 2018