The doors have swung open on the Berkeley High School softball season and it’s all business moving forward.
“Our motto is unfinished business,” second-year Berkeley coach Kelley Dillon said. “We’ve had all this talk surrounding our team for a few years and it’s time finish the business and bring home the title. Every game is a business meeting. It’s time to take the next step.”
Last season, Berkeley won 26 games and captured region and district championships before coming up short against Hartsville in the Class 4A Lower State tournament. The Stags will lean on an experienced crew as they take aim at their goals this spring.
“I tell my girls all the time I have high expectations and standards,” Dillon said. “We’re not going to lower those. We’re going to meet them and exceed them.”
Berkeley will go to bat with seven seniors, including five signed, sealed and delivered to the next level. Inside the circle last spring, right-handed pitcher Raelee Brabham (Coastal Carolina) was 18-4 with 230 strikeouts in 128 innings. She also batted .347 with three home runs and 29 RBIs en route to an all-state nod.
On the other end of the battery, catcher Haylee Wilkerson (Columbia International) is a seasoned backstop. She batted .419 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 2018.
“She was our No. 4 hitter last year and she stayed at the top of the average list,” Dillon said. “She came through in a bunch of clutch situations.”
Outfielders Brooklynn Stueness (Coker) and Alexus Shreve (Francis Marion) hit .342 and .361 last season, combining to drive in 48 runs. Third baseman Savannah Whezel (Salem) batted .417 with four RBIs. She will miss the first part of the season with an injury.
Still only a sophomore, speedy shortstop Jersey Silver has been a spark plug for multiple varsity seasons. Silver will be asked to set the table again from the leadoff spot.
“She keeps getting better every year,” Dillon said. “She’s very quick. She hit her first homer over the summer so she’s got more power too.”
Stueness, another lefty, will follow Silver in the No. 2 spot.
More projected starters when the season dawns are freshman first baseman Riley Daniel, junior second baseman Madison Wyndham (transitioning from the outfield), junior third baseman Ally Hewitt and either senior Morgan Grady or freshman Gracie Decuir in left field. Sophomore Hayden Richberg, a utility infielder, is right there in the mix for playing time at second, short and third base.
Decuir, a southpaw, will also log innings inside the circle as a change-of-pace hurler.
Dillon hopes to get Decuir as much time as possible in the circle as Brabham prepares to leave the program.
“We’ll have a power pitcher and one crafty,” Dillon said. “Both are consistent hard workers and dedicated. It will be important that both are ready to go and have their A game.”
Dillon said Wyndham, also the backup catcher, has taken to her new position.
“She plays that position in travel ball,” Dillon said. “I love her as an outfielder because of her arm but she’s made the adjustments to play on the infield. She’s made the switch easy.”
Hewitt, who backed up Diamond McKelvey last season, already has one big swing under her belt in the preseason. She blasted a grand slam in a 5-0 victory over South Florence.
Daniel has the size and a pretty swing but will need some time to get acclimated to the varsity level.
“It’s a change of culture for her,” Dillon said. “She’s about 5-11 and she’s got a lot of power but nine of the 13 players are juniors and seniors. We need to get her prepared. She’s going to end up as the type of player you want on your team.”
Richberg is another lefty for the lineup.
“She’s a small-ball kid but she can stand in and swing,” Dillon said. “With her, if somebody is not producing or we have an injury, I have full confidence in her coming in and filling that spot.”
Shreve is another option at first base and senior McKenna Anderson is in the conversation for playing time in the outfield.
“I tell my girls all the time, it’s all about who is hitting,” Dillon said. “We’re very versatile.”
Berkeley begins the regular season March 5 at James Island and hosts county rival Hanahan in its first home game on March 7.