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Peaks, cycles impact balls, strikes in middle school softball

2019 J.S. Waters Lady Cubs

GOLDSTON — The third time wasn’t the charm for John Warf in 2018 and neither was his fourth attempt at the Chatham County Schools middle school softball championship here in 2019. 

“Every year, it seems like we come in with some young girls, and they want it,” said Warf, who coaches the softball team at J.S. Waters School. “We just keep coming up short a little.”2019 Silk Hope Eagles

The Silk Hope Eagles beat Warf's Lady Cubs 15-14 in late October.  

In recent seasons, it’s been J.S. Waters and Bonlee School vying for the title. But Silk Hope showed up seemingly out of nowhere and turned in an undefeated season — 10-0.

“J.S. Waters and Bonlee lost a lot of people last year, and our people finally got old enough to start playing. It goes in cycles,” Silk Hope coach Barton Mitchell said.

“It definitely goes in cycles,” Bonlee coach John Shaner said. “Bonlee’s had three strong classes in a row.

“I think the same thing happened to J.S Waters. They had a dominant pitcher who was just an outstanding pitcher,” and Warf was able to build around her with solid players, Shaner said. 

No false humility for Mitchell. He said he knew from Day 1 of this past season that his team would be special.

“The continuity was there,” explained Mitchell, who said he coached many of the young ladies in recreational ball. “They just grew up playing together.”  

“I knew that they would be the team to beat,” Shaner said.

Warf was working with a roster that wasn’t as plug-and-play: Six of his young ladies had never played middle school softball. A couple of them had never played softball at all, and another kid had even less experience, he said.

“She had never picked up a softball before,” Warf explained.

Yet that young lady became a solid contributor to the team, he said.

The coach wouldn’t take any credit for the Lady Cubs’ success.

“It all goes to the girls. They know they want it. They don’t give up,” Warf said.

This past season was Warf’s fourth stint leading the Lady Cubs. During his first season, they finished third in the district. J.S. Waters was runner-up in his second season and co-champs with Bonlee in Year 3. Another runner-up performance this past season still stings. 

“What stung the most was not being able to give Silk Hope their one loss,” Warf said.

Although falling short of the district championship the past three seasons, J.S. Waters was able to spoil Bonlee’s undefeated campaigns by delivering the Dragons’ lone losses in both 2017 and 2018.

The 2020 season is in the on-deck circle. 

“No predictions. We lose three great eighth-graders,” said Warf, adding that he’ll be sending young pitchers to the mound this coming season.

Silk Hope will lose three players who are heading to high school, but none of them are pitchers, Mitchell said.

A team with at least one strong pitcher can do some damage, Shaner said.  

Offseason workouts will start before long.

“Well, I need a little bit of a break,” Warf quipped.

But he’ll be around. Warf drives the bus for the J.S. Waters basketball teams. His daughter is on the girls’ squad.

“I’ve always been a community guy, and whatever I can do to give back, it helps everybody out in the long run,” Warf said. 

Published Nov. 12, 2019