One Final Chance

One Final Chance

The four 2020 RC graduates who played in the senior softball games last week in Salem were (from left) Emma Marcum, Elisha Hayslett, Tristan Ayers and Savannah McDaniel. (Jessica Ayers photo)

One Final Chance

Emma Marcum gets in position to collect a ball in the infield. (Kirkland Campbell photo)

One Final Chance

Playing second base, Ayers gets ready for a play. (Jessica Ayers photo)

One Final Chance

Elisha Hayslett waits for a play at first base. (Kirkland Campbell photo)

Four Wildcats Play In Senior Softball Games

After their senior softball season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, four 2020 Rockbridge County High School graduates got to play softball with other graduates in senior games on Monday and Tuesday of last week.

Representing RC at the Arnold R. Burton Complex were Tristan Ayers, Elisha Hayslett Emma Marcum, Savannah McDaniel.

Last Monday, the four Wildcats joined 40 other 2020 graduates from high schools in the Timesland, Lynchburg area and Waynesboro areas for a senior day ceremony. Each player had her named called, received a rose, and got to take a photo with her parents. Future plans were announced for each player.

The players were selected for the game after the coordinator, William Byrd assistant coach Kassie Brammer, contacted coaches earlier this summer. New RC head coach Keston Beverley then reached out to the seniors and parents to pass along the information.

“I am very happy and proud of the senior girls for participating,” Beverley said. “I also give huge kudos to the organizer of the event. She stepped up during these crazy and uncertain times and provided an opportunity for the seniors … to be recognized and honored for their accomplishments over the last four years and to play one last game, which they deserved.”

Reflecting on the senior games, Ayers said, “Monday and Tuesday were very special days for me. Being honored in front of many other seniors helped me realize that I haven’t been as alone in this fiasco as I thought.”

Ayers said she was nervous when she got on the field and learned that her RC teammates were split up among the four teams. Ayers was put on the Red team, Hayslett on the Gray team, Marcum on the Navy team, and McDaniel on the Black team.

“After warming up with my team, I realized that this was the first time that I was playing on the same team along with girls that I’ve been playing against for the past seven years,” Ayers said.

On Monday, Ayers played second base and hit a double to help the Red team defeat the Black team 12-8. The Red team also won on Tuesday, defeating the Gray team 5-4. Ayers’s fielding at second base helped again, and she hit a low pitch to third base and reached first on an error. Also on Tuesday, Marcum helped the Navy team defeat the Black team 4-2.

Before the announcement in late March by the Virginia High School that spring sports would be canceled, Ayers said she was excited about her senior season. It was her last chance to play with girls who had been her teammates for several years. “After our first two scrimmages, I knew there was a lot for us to work on as a team, but with our team chemistry I knew it wouldn’t take long.”

She and Marcum were co-captains, and they “wanted to make this season the best one yet,” Ayers said. “We saw ourselves as equals among the other girls and loved how well everyone got along right from the start.”

Ayers said that when she and her teammates learned that their senior season was canceled entirely, “We were all devastated. Our last day of practice was definitely a rough evening. Although most of the girls knew that they had future years in a Wildcat uniform, everyone was in tears at the thought of our year together being over so soon.”

Expressing her gratitude for her coaches, Ayers first played for James Clark and Rebecca Stratton for the junior varsity team in eighth grade. She joined the varsity team, under head coach Keith Ruley, as a sophomore. Ayers said she was brought up to the varsity level early because Ruley “saw enormous potential in me and continued to push me to be the best I could be for two years, between hitting the weight room during offseason and working me twice as hard on the field.”

With two new coaches this year, Beverley and assistant coach Cari Floyd, Ayers said she and her teammates “were all so excited to learn new things and to grow together.” Ayers added that they “were such amazing coaches in the short period of time we had with them. They encouraged and supported each and every one of our girls and made every effort to help us understand new plays.”

Reflecting on her softball career, Ayers said, “Though our time was cut short, I am so thankful to have been apart of such a great team from my eighth-grade year to my senior year. The friendships and memories I’ve made within the last four years will continue to stay with me throughout my lifetime, and I can’t wait to watch my girls in the following years and be there to cheer them on as they did me.”

This fall, Ayers plans to attend Dabney S. Lancaster Community College to complete her first year of general studies before transferring to Radford University Carilion to earn a degree in athletic training.

Ayers’s RC teammates who competed in the senior games could not be reached for comment. Hayslett and Marcum played first base for the Wildcats while McDaniel played shortstop.