What’s wrong with this picture? The baseball Cardinals have commenced another season, the local college baseball and women’s softball teams are in full bloom, like spring flowers, and all of the St. Louis-area high school girls softball teams on the Metro-East side of the metropolitan area have been playing a few weeks now: from Alton to Wood River,Ill. Aside from the southern and southwest sections of Missouri, all of the high school girl softball teams concluded their seasons last fall.
But don’t blame the Missouri State Activities Association, for it has given all of the teams the option to play softball in the fall or spring and for myriad reasons, the central and western parts of the state have opted to play in the fall. Never mind that by season’s end, the weather has turned ‘fall like’ or that it competes with football at most schools. It has simply been an unconventional rite of fall for the aforementioned located Missouri teams.
Former Public High League manager James Zach of the city public teams says a potential shortage of fields would exist if PHL softball teams had play at the same time, in the spring, as PHL baseball teams. Current interim PHL manager Gary Glasscock, and softball coach of the dominant league champion, Metro Lady Panthers concurred about the potential field shortage and said there hasn’t been a move to change the seasons. Meanwhile other coaches from other leagues and other sports have said allowing their female athletes to play softball in the fall, frees more of them for soccer or track and field in the spring.
In any event, as it were, many Missouri softball players annually sit out the spring and start their softball season, in earnest, in the summer. It’s just too bad so many splendid teams and players go under the radar in the shadow of football in the fall.
One such player was Riverview Gardens High star Jayda McFerren, In case you missed it, and you probably did, McFerren was a catalyst on an emerging Riverview Gardens program, which had been a former North County doormat. Enter McFerren, Brittany Brown, Christina Lane, Paris Moore and Brianna Pierce, all of whom brought big bats along with McFerren’s bat and arm.
Riverview had gone 0-12 in the fall of 2011 before she arrived and won just three games in his freshman season, but by the time the Lady Rams wrapped up their playoffs last fall, they had improved to 13-6. For the true evidence of the evolution, look no further than McFerren,who was the club’s sultan of swing and the star hurler of the opponents’ missed swings: She led the club in batting with a .543 average and on base percentage with a .605 mark.Lane (.492), Brown (.485), Lauryn Moore (.423) and Paris Brown (.403) displayed potent averages as well. But on the mound, McFerren distinguished herself even more so, by going 11-6 with 109 strikeouts in just 80.3 innings.
Riverview was beaten in the playoffs by Incarnate Word, which was no discredit, considering that Incarnate went on to get eliminated by eventual Missouri Class 3 state champion Warrenton.
“It really means a lot to me to see Jayda and her teammates grow through the years,” said James McFerrin, her father. “I watched them go from a 3-12 season to a 13-6 season and they played in two district (playoff) games. Jayda has grow into a very good pitcher and team leader.
Even in that three-win campaign, an inexperienced McFerren still managed 51 strikeouts in just 36 innings. Then a couple of seasons ago she also batted .500, just behind team-leader Brittany Brown’s 538 clip.But pitching is where she is needed most because of the skills needed and not just Riverview, but a typical team’s lack of pitching depth.
“Jayda has always been a solid pitcher,” says Lady Rams coach Jason Holzum. “Her playing ball over the summers have helped tremendously. She has great control and location. She also throws decently hard.”
As noted Glasscock’s Metro team in the Public High League was truly dominant in running roughshod over its opponents on the way to another PHL title. Indeed, Metro posted a 16-6 record in which the Lady Panthers scored 15 or more runs in all but one of those victories. In fact, Metro was so dominant that in the individual run-scoring category: Ayanna Tomlin and Maude Wilkinson ranked first and second with 55 and 54 runs respectively. That’s not just first in the PHL, first in the entire metropolitan area. Metro also had two players who hit better .500, in Wilkinson (.640) and Jessica Meyer (.565) and the top four (count them four) stolen base leaders in the entire metropolitan area in Wilkinson (46), Gina Civettini (39), Zari Anderson (38) and Tomlin (37).
But despite those prolific numbers, Metro went meekly against McFerren and Riverview Gardens, losing 15-0 in a three-inning , mercy-rule game. McFerren silenced the big Metro bats and never allowed a base runner, while striking out six of the nine batters she faced. For good measure at the plate, McFerren helped her own cause going 3-for-3 with two runs scored. But shutting down a Metro team that hit, ran and scored in bunches was a particularly noteworthy accomplishment.
“She (McFerren) was really one of the hard throwers in the area we weren’t used to seeing in the PHL,” said Glasscock. “She was around the plate, she had good control and she had a good catcher. She was basically a flame thrower, which is something we don’t ever see in the PHL.”
. For her season accomplishments, McFerren joined McCluer North’s Lauren Hudson on the Suburban XII North all-conference team as the pitchers. Brittany Brown also made the squad Evidently, getting out of the gate fast proved to be the catalyst behind the Rams success: They reeled off six straight victories to open the campaign, including 22-2 and 23-0 wipeouts of Bayless and Jennings, 12-2 over McCluer South-Berkeley and 31-11 over University City.
“We did a few camps last summer that got the girls in the mode of playing softball again,” noted Holzum. “Our biggest challenge is getting more exposure to the sport compared to other regions. A lot of our girls have never played it before.”
Of course now that they are playing it, they might be best served plying it in the spring, when they could play under more conducive weather by season’s end, just as they do in the southern-most part of Missouri. Jason West, executive administrator with the Missouri State Activities Association said there is also a state tournament for the spring softball season. However, it comprises just one class, whereas the more stacked fall season has four state class brackets and champions
“We even give schools the option of playing softball in the spring and fall,” explained West last week. “But they can only play in one of the state tournaments. If they play in the fall state tournament, they can’t play in the state tournament again in the spring.”.
Evidently not nearly enough St. Louis area schools are receptive enough to embrace spring softball, or dual season softball, for whatever reasons. In the meantime, teams like Riverview Gardens must cherish their fall season accomplishments,even though the fair weather fans, and the fair weather period, may sometimes elude them. But at least their ardent fans and supporters appreciate them.
“Words can’t explain how I feel about her,” James McFerren said of McFerren, whom he said is considering several scholarship offers but undecided if she wants to continue playing on the next level. “What she has done in her four years at Riverview makes me so proud.”