The upcoming season for the Royal Palm Beach High School girls softball team will be a year of renewal and rebuilding, rather than reloading. According to head coach Dave Hir, last year’s team was stacked with talent, but this year’s team is not quite as deep and skilled as in past years.
“Last year, we started out 10-1, and we had eight seniors on the team,” Hir recalled. “And then COVID-19 hit, which halted our season. We had a good chance to win regionals and advance to the state tournament.”
But that was then, and this is now for the Wildcats.
Hir and his assistant coaches Chris Lincoln and Kristina Hayslip are committed to getting this year’s team into game-ready shape by opening day.
The backbone of this year’s squad is a group of four players, all of whom want to continue playing softball at the collegiate level. Hir and assistant coach Cassandra Morgan are focused on improving the softball skills of returning players while developing the skill set of the younger members of the team.
Those four experienced players are Kiera “Kiki” Mainolfi, Jamie Marcus, Adriana Hemmings and Brooke Edgar.
Mainolfi is a junior first baseman who has started for the Wildcats since her freshman year.
“Kiki, who will hit third in the lineup, is a teacher of the game who will take young players under her wing and help them improve,” Hir said. “She knows my system like the back of her hand and will share that philosophy with our younger players. Kiki is a very smart player and a good base runner.”
Marcus, a junior, will bat leadoff and will play in centerfield. In essence, she will be the captain of the outfield.
“Jamie throws and bats left-handed,” Hir said. “On defense, she has a cannon of an arm, and on offense, she will steal lots of bases. She’s very sharp and very fast.”
Marcus was Royal Palm Beach’s rookie of the year as a freshman.
Hemmings is a sophomore and returns as the team’s starting shortstop. As a freshman last year, she was named the team’s rookie of the year.
Hir is delighted to have Hemmings on the team as the shortstop since she’s such a multi-talented player.
“She’s fast, can play good defense, and can also hit for power,” he said. “While batting, she is not just a hitter. She plays offense and will take what the defense gives her. At the plate, if the corners are playing back at first and third, she can lay down a bunt to get on base. Then, she can steal two bases and turn a bunt into a triple.”
Edgar, a sophomore, is a new addition to the team, but she is an experienced player.
“Brooke lives in Royal Palm Beach and attended the Oxbridge Academy last year,” Hir said. “She has come home to Royal Palm Beach.”
According to Hir, Edgar will split time between playing catcher and third base. “Brooke is a power hitter, and we’re ecstatic about her becoming a Wildcat,” Hir said.
In addition to a lack of experience at the other positions, Hir noted that he doesn’t have the depth at pitching like he has had in previous years, so that will put more pressure on the defense to make plays in order to stay competitive.
As of right now, Hir plans to have junior Kelsey McCabe as his starting pitcher. Hemmings will be standing by as her main reliever.
The Wildcats softball squad open their season on March 16 on the road when they travel to play perennial local powerhouse Park Vista High School.
“Despite the fact we don’t have a great deal of experience, we are still going to play a very competitive schedule,” Hir said. “We are in the midst of being as competitive as we can be while giving my top four players top-level pitching and competition, which will help them land a college scholarship.”