July 29, 2014 12:57:21 PM
WEST POINT -- Macy Walters didn't look like someone who was playing catcher for the first time Monday.
Maybe it was muscle memory that helped the Heritage Academy junior recall when she and Kaitlyn Oswalt were in elementary school and they would play catch. Back then, Oswalt didn't throw nearly as hard as she does now as a junior on the Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball team. But the speed or the movement of Oswalt's arsenal didn't appear to faze Walters, as she framed and blocked pitches and moved like a veteran behind the plate in Heritage Academy's 8-5 victory against Oak Hill Academy in its season opener.
"It was weird," Walters said of catching a friend who has lived across the street from her in New Hope for 10 years. "I have never done it before, so it was an adjustment, but I learned a lot this game. I hope to improve each game and get better. It was an adjustment, but it is going to be fun."
Walters was pushed into duty at catcher after projected starter Brooklyn Waldrep came down with mononucleosis. Heritage Academy coach Gary Harris said Waldrep likely will miss at least three more weeks as she recovers, which means Walters, who has played center field and shortstop for the team, has had to take a crash course on catching.
Walters admitted she didn't know all of the signs and understand everything Harris and assistant coach Mickey Allen asked her to do Monday, but she said she was eager to learn and to help her team in her new role. She said she has had only two weeks to prepare for the transition. Last week, though, Walters was on vacation in the Bahamas, so she didn't get a chance to play catch with Oswalt and get used to the movement of her pitches.
"She just threw a lot of balls at me and I just had to get in front of them and block them up," Walters said.
Harris offered instruction throughout the afternoon. He encouraged Walters to avoid going to her knees with runners on base and advised her to turn her body when she caught balls so she would be in better position if a runner attempted to steal a base.
"I am proud of Macy and KO," Harris said. "We came into the season thinking Brooklyn was going to be our catcher. When she went down, we had to move our best outfielder, who is our captain out there and takes care of everything, to catcher. You can't tell she had never caught before. ... She is so smart. She comes from a family that loves baseball and softball, so she is going to do the little things right."
In the fifth inning, Walters didn't understand Harris the first time when he told her to go to the circle to talk to Oswalt. Harris wanted Walters to talk to Oswalt because the Lady Raiders (0-2) appeared to be gaining momentum after a leadoff walk and a one-out hit by Shelby Tyler. Oak Hill Academy added a run-scoring single by Anna Katherine Childress and then capitalized on a fielding error by Oswalt. Walters received the message from Harris the second time and trekked to the circle.
Oswalt, who is in her second season at Heritage Academy after transferring from New Hope High School, allowed only three hits. She walked two and struck out 11 in the game that was called after the fifth inning due to the time limit.
"She did really good," Oswalt said of Walters. "I was proud of her."
Oswalt said she, Harris, and Walters went over how they wanted to attack hitters so everyone knew what to do. She acknowledged Monday was the first time she pitched to a first-time catcher and said Walters did better than she thought she would.
"You have to be careful, but she did really good for a first game," Oswalt said. "I tried to be careful, but I do pretty bad when I try to be careful. I tried to be careful when I was behind in the count or I had to make sure she caught the ball when there were runners on. It got rough with me."
Walters and Oswalt will have plenty of chances this week to work the kinks out. Heritage Academy will play host to Marshall Academy and Kirk Academy today in Columbus. The team also will play Starkville Academy on Thursday.
"It can't any worse," Walters said. "(Catcher) is about the only position I haven't played, so you might as well put it on there (her resume)."
Heritage Academy had only five hits and capitalized on 12 walks. Six of the walks came around to score. Macy Nordquist had a hit and two RBIs, Oswalt had three walks, a single, and an RBI, Walters had an RBI, Tyler Rhett had two singles, and Hayley Martin had the other single.
n Central Academy 22, Starkville Academy 5: At Macon, Courtney Gaylord had three hits to lead the Lady Vikings past the Lady Volunteers in their season opener.
Gaylord scattered three hits and struck out seven (one walk) to get the victory.
Allie Beth Rigdon and Kelsey Robbins also had two singles, and Sadie Lindsey and Kayla Brown also had doubled for Central Academy, which scored four runs in the first inning and 11 more in the second.
Adrienne Futral had a double, and Sarah Morgan Pellum and Mallory Barber had singles for Starkville Academy (1-1).
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.