Destiny Thurston said she felt the butterflies of being in her first playoff game with the softball team. If that was in fact the case, the Eagles’ freshman certainly didn’t let it be seen.
Thurston connected on doubles in each of her first two at-bats, driving in three runs, as No. 6 West Deptford overwhelmed No. 11 Willingboro, 11-1, in five innings in the opening round of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 playoffs.
“That felt good,” Thurston said of her big swings. “Finally! I have been in and out of my hitting, so it felt good to hit like that and get runs in.”
Thurston’s teammates were excited for her and are hoping it will propel her to even bigger things in the coming days.
“It’s a great confidence booster,” said junior Summer Wenzel. “That’s what she needs. She’s going to be hitting on Thursday now.”
Thurston caught the eye of the Eagles’ coaching staff early in preseason tryouts and started to see consistent varsity playing time in the second half of the season.
“I was nervous, it was scary,” Thurston said of her first days with the team. “Practicing with the team, they told me I could have a chance, so I was waiting and hoping, and when they called my name I was the happiest person ever.”
Thurston has had some ups and down in her first season, which is to be expected from any young player. However, she showed some great power Tuesday, one-hopping a ball to the left-field fence.
“We have been working with her a lot with her hitting mechanics and techniques, so I hope it gave her confidence,” West Deptford coach Amanda Schramm said. “Confidence is everything.”
The whole lineup looked confident against Willingboro as West Deptford jumped on pitcher Ashley Lewis for six runs in the bottom of the first inning. Danielle McKeown scored the first run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of winning pitcher Marissa Linquist and Kat Ziegler and Sydney Ponto scored on a two-run double by Wenzel.
Morgan Brown gave the Eagles a 4-0 lead by driving in Wenzel with a single and Thurston capped the scoring by plating Brown and Katie Boyd with a double. The Eagles added four more runs in the third and a single run in the fourth.
Linquist made quick work of Willingboro, striking out seven in five innings.
The Eagles advance to face a familiar foe in No. 3 seed Haddon Heights. The Garnets eliminated West Deptford from the playoffs a year ago and handed the Eagles two losses this season.
One could say Haddon Heights simply has West Deptford’s number, or argue that the Eagles are simply due. Either way, the players are excited about the opportunity ahead.
“We have nothing to lose,” Schramm said. “They are the ones on paper that look like the stronger team. If we make no mistakes and manufacture runs and be smart on the bases and give ourselves a chance to win, that’s all I can ask.”
“We are really eager,” Wenzel said. “We are so excited and pumped. We are not going in cocky, but we want to hit and play as well as we can. We are there to win.”