If there was one thing that stood out to Central’s softball seniors above all else during the time they spent with the program, it’s the bond they shared with their teammates.
Three of the Falcons’ four seniors said as much, each noting that they grew to be far more than teammates throughout their softball careers, which were cut short by COVID-19 this spring.
Olivia Wightman pointed out that the Falcons always picked each other up, always cheered each other on even when someone made a mistake and never held grudges. Chloee Burton said she and her teammates became sisters and added that it was meaningful to be surrounded by other girls who love the game just as much as she did. Katlyn Orndorff said the same of a Central group that included fellow senior Natalie Broy.
“I think about how we’ve become a family rather than just players on the field,” Orndorff said last week of her time in the Falcons’ softball program. “We all grew a bond together.”
One of Wightman’s fondest memories of her Central softball career showcases that camaraderie.
“One game I remember, last season I didn’t have the best season. My confidence wasn’t the best and I remember, it was getting close to the end of the season and I had a diving catch and I made a double play off of it, and my team, they went crazy about it,” Wightman recalled. “Even though I made all those mistakes throughout the season, it was so memorable to have them cheer me on after all of that.”
While Orndorff couldn’t nail down a specific memory, she said she remembered playing home games and the support the Falcons received during them, and the pointers that head coach Scott Mongold and assistant coach Mike Hunt gave her during her career.
For Burton, the Falcons’ fleet-footed center fielder, one memory that sticks out is the time she robbed her cousin of a home run during a game at Moorefield (West Virginia) in 2019.
Burton, the program’s only four-year varsity player and the most established of the four Falcon seniors at the varsity level, was named a team captain this spring and said she learned valuable lessons on leadership during her time on Central’s softball field.
“This year I was nominated team captain and being able to tell young girls to work hard and one day you might get the leadership role, that makes you really feel good about yourself,” Burton said.
Wightman too was named a team captain in 2020 and said she learned the importance of leadership and communication during her time on the softball field and the basketball court at Central.
“I also feel that you don’t have to be the strongest, you don’t have to be the tallest or anything. As long as you give it your all, the coaches really pay attention to that,” Wightman added. “And if you give it your all, you’re gonna go far with that.”
Orndorff said the biggest lesson she learned while in Central’s softball program was to never give up. Mongold said Orndorff, who was called up to the varsity squad during her sophomore season, was a player who “bided her time” and was due for major playing time before COVID-19 brought the spring season to a halt.
“Katlyn Orndorff played her way into the lineup late last year and I was really excited for her,” Mongold said. “She’s one of those kids that did everything she was asked to do, and kind of waited her time, and this was supposed to be her year. This was her year to prove to the other girls what she was and how hard she worked, so you hate it for that.”
Mongold called Burton a “special ballplayer” who had all-state potential in 2020 and was on track to break Central’s career stolen bases record this season, if she hadn’t done so already.
Of Wightman, Mongold said the infielder/outfielder is an “absolute joy to coach.”
“She’s the type of kid that whether she’s playing or isn’t, she doesn’t change, her demeanor doesn’t change,” Mongold said. “And she was a heckuva role player. She was gonna get the nod and start at second base. It was gonna be hers to lose. I was looking for her to step it up a notch. But like I said, she contributed at times offensively and at times defensively the last two years that she played. It just depended on what we needed for that night. Just an absolute role player whether it was second base or wherever we had her.”
Mongold added that Broy is an “absolutely above-average” player who never got the chance to showcase her talent on the field because of her health.
“There was always something that was nagging her coming into the season or that she picked up through the season,” Mongold said. “I know that she was looking for a good year.”
The Falcons won’t get the chance to compete this spring, and the seniors have likely seen the end of their softball careers (the Virginia High School League later this week is expected to make a decision on whether or not to contest some portion of the spring season this summer). Wightman said it’s sad not having the chance to celebrate senior night with the girls she grew up playing Little League with.
“I would like to be there to play my last game,” Orndorff said, “have a senior night, a true senior night, but it is what it is.”
Burton, who said she’s verbally committed to play softball at Shepherd University, noted that she’s been practicing at home to stay on top of her game during the pandemic.
“I’ve got to keep a smile on my face and just keep practicing,” Burton said.
“It definitely sucks that I didn’t get to finish my senior year,” she added, “but I was really honored to be able to wear blue and gold my last four years.”