Coaches Blend With SHS Players
PENN LAIRD — As the Spotswood High School softball team waited in the cafeteria before practice one day last week, the coaches and players blended together – looking like any other bunch of girls. It’s not a crazy concept, considering new coach Summer Ramsey and her assistants are less than two years out of college.
“She just gets us – she’s closer to our age,” senior outfielder Danielle Stroop said.
It’s been years since Spotswood has had a run of success in the Valley District, but Ramsey remembers it well. She was a star pitcher at Wilson Memorial and went on to play for Donnie Fulk at Bridgewater College from 2009-2011. Her assistants – MaryClaire Pedagano and Jessica Blosser – both played on teams with Ramsey growing up, and Blosser played in college at Eastern Mennonite.
Ramsey hopes the staff’s recent playing experience translates into effective coaching.
“It was kind of unexpected, but I was ready to step up and do what I can to help the program,” said Ramsey, an assistant coach at SHS last season. “I’m really happy to be here. I feel like I’ve found my place, so I’d like to stay as long as I can.”
Ramsey’s coaching style, she said, is a mix-and-match of coaches she’s played for in the past.
“I’ve learned from my past coaches things that work and things that don’t, then I take it from there,” Ramsey said. “Every day at practice we’re wired and ready to go. There’s really never a dull moment with this team and with this coaching staff – it’s a lot of fun.”
It will be more fun for the Trailblazers if the team wins, something senior pitcher and infielder Anna Patterson probably will help determine. As a junior, Patterson had a 1.88 ERA in over 90 innings, helped in large part by Ramsey joining the SHS staff as the pitching coach.
Ramsey called the pitches for Patterson, and she taught her the finer points of pitches that both of them throw, including a knuckleball and rollover pinky-changeup. She also helped calm her down on the mound when things went poorly.
So it’s no wonder Patterson, who also played forward on Spotswood’s back-to-back girls’ basketball state championship teams, is following in Ramsey’s footsteps and playing college softball at Bridgewater.
“At the beginning of [last] season I didn’t know how it was going to go because I’ve never had another pitcher help me,” said Patterson, who committed to BC in October. “When she came, it just made it kind of flow easier.”
Fulk, BC’s longtime coach, announced he will retire at the end of the 2014 season, meaning Patterson will play for a new coach. She also drew interest from EMU and Roanoke, but liked the close-knit feel of the Bridgewater program.
Ramsey was a similar pitcher to Patterson when she played, hitting the corners and throwing strikes as opposed to mowing down batters.
“I wasn’t the pitcher that was going to dominate every team,” said Ramsey, who is a part-time physical education teacher at Montevideo Middle School. “I had a lot of different pitches to throw in the mix, so I was more of a movement pitcher. That was kind of my specialty. I didn’t give up too many walks.”
The changeup has been Patterson’s biggest takeaway from Ramsey’s teaching.
“I’ve always struggled throughout the years on my changeup,” Patterson said. “I’ve gone through like five different changeups, trying to find the one I like. This one working for me and bringing in what she already knows, it made my pitch a whole lot better.”
Offensively, Patterson hit .383 with 15 RBIs and 14 runs. Her sister, Laura, also was a key player for SHS last season. The catcher batted .353 as a freshman, and both figure to again combine for what Ramsey called Spotswood’s “dynamic duo.”
“Having [Ramsey] last year really helped us improve, we did a lot better last season,” senior first baseman Emily Clatterbuck said. “That was our first really good season since [Spotswood and East Rockingham] split.”
Previous coach Danny Filler helped the Trailblazers more than double their win total from 2012 to 2013 before stepping down after three seasons. SHS, which hasn’t qualified for the regionals since 2010, finished last season 9-12, up from four wins in 2012.
SHS will need to replace third baseman Miranda Hinkle, who hit better than .350 last season. Finding that production won’t be easy and Ramsey maintains that SHS has started a slow but steady process of changing its perception.
“My goal is to be the team that teams don’t recognize when we play,” Ramsey said. “I want to kind of make a new image of the program.”