By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
If ACIT softball coach Ryan Staiger had a team full of players such as senior Elisabeth Davis, filling out the lineup card would be as easy as simply picking names out of a hat. That’s how versatile Davis is. Put her anywhere on a softball field and she’ll get the job done.
Davis is normally the RedHawks’ starting shortstop, but she can also pitch, play the outfield, and even catch if the need ever arises. Oh, and she also happens to be one of the best hitters in the school’s brief history, recently becoming the first RedHawks player ever to achieve 100 career hits.
“My freshman year, I didn’t even know (getting 100 hits) was a big thing, so it was cool to be closing in on it this year,” Davis said. “I know what kind of pitches I like, so I try to get up close to the plate so the pitcher will throw a pitch I like. I just kind of wing it, though. I’ve been playing for so long, and now that I’m a senior and realizing that after high school it’s going to be over, I’m just trying to have fun with it.”
That’s Davis, in a nutshell. She doesn’t care too much about her stats, she just loves softball and wants to go out there every day and have fun with her teammates.
“When people think of ACIT, they never think of us as being an athletic school, so for Liz to get her 100th hit, that’s big. It’s been really fun, this team is like a family,” said fellow senior Gianna Palermo. “She’s always energetic and funny. She’s always very positive and brings a great energy to the team. With Liz, you can see greatness in everything she does.”
“Liz, every time we put her anywhere — whether it be shortstop, pitcher, catcher — she does a great job. She does it with a smile, as anybody can see when she’s on the field,” Staiger said. “She’s a very humble kid. She’s a great kid, a very hard worker. She makes contact with the ball every time she is up to bat. She does get down on herself sometimes because she feels she can do better. She seeks perfection. Even if she makes an error, she’ll have a smile on her face because she knows she come back and get the next one.”
Staiger began as an assistant coach a few years ago, and when he was told the diminutive Davis was the team’s starting shortstop, he thought he was having a joke played on him. Surely this girl who stands about 5 feet, maybe an inch or two more, couldn’t possibly have the range and arm strength to be a varsity shortstop. But, it didn’t take long for Staiger to realize that Davis might be tiny, but that she packs a punch.
“When I came onto the staff it was Liz’s sophomore year. When I heard from the former head coach that she was our shortstop, I thought coach was joking,” Staiger said. “But when I saw her first throw from shortstop — it was at the first baseman’s chest and probably the hardest throw I’ve seen from a girl. I was like, ‘OK, you’re right, coach. We have a shortstop.’”
Davis has also shown her versatility at the plate. As ACIT has moved up into the Cape-Atlantic League’s American Conference recently because of increased enrollment, she’s had to face a lot of good pitching against teams such as Egg Harbor Township, Millville, Vineland and Mainland, among others. That makes Davis’ feat of reaching 100 career hits even more impressive since she’s getting on base consistently against good teams.
“At the beginning of the season I had 83 hits. I was hoping I would get (100) earlier than I did because it was starting to stress me out,” Davis said. “It’s impressive that I’ll be the first one here to ever get 100 hits. Overall, it’s nice playing for a school like this because everything is so brand new.”
“She’s always had potential and has always been either No. 1 or No. 2 in our batting order. She makes contact and has speed, and that’s somebody you want at the top of your batting order. And, she always wants to be here and always has a smile. She enjoys being around softball. This is her favorite thing to do,” Staiger said. “It’s great because we’re always trying to get the name of the program out there. The program here is building and it’s going to keep getting better. We have a solid core who are freshmen and sophomores starting for us right now and we have some good JV players coming up. I think this is one of those programs that is on the rise, and having Liz get her 100th hit is going to help us keep building off of that. More milestones will be coming after that.”
Palermo said it’s fun watching Davis compete because so many things come naturally to her. The RedHawks know that wherever Davis is on the field, she’s going to make plays, and that instills confidence in the other players.
“She’s an incredible athlete. Not just in softball, but all around. She also plays tennis,” Palermo said. “But in softball, she’s an incredible pitcher and she can play anywhere on the field. She played outfield freshman year, now shortstop. She can also catch, and as a batter she’s incredible.”
Davis, however, doesn’t like praise being heaped upon her. She sees herself as just one of the girls, and is trying to have as much fun as possible before her high school career ends.
“I’ll remember the team and the atmosphere you have when everyone joins together as a family. I think that will be my favorite thing about looking back on my career, not how I played. I’m not going to remember every play of every game, but I’ll remember how we cared about each other and how we treated each other,” Davis said. “We give it our all every time, and that’s all that matters. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s fun remembering being an underclassman and looking up to all the upperclassmen. Last year, it was scary because we didn’t have any seniors last year, so the freshmen and sophomores were looking up to the juniors. It’s nice to see that we’re the last few from freshman year who are still playing.
With so much competition in the Cape-Atlantic League, softball can be a stressful sport. But, Davis keeps things in perspective.
“I just try to have fun with it all,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN