When Chase and East Rutherford meet, no matter the sport, it is an intense rivalry game. When the two teams square off on the softball diamond, as they will today at Chase, that rivalry gets cranked up a few notches.
“As the head football and softball coach, I’ve been a part of the rivalry in two different sports,” said Chase coach Daniel Bailey. “I can tell you that the football game each year is intense, but I believe that softball is the most intense game between Chase and East every year.”
Bailey believes that the intensity stems from the fact that both squads are evenly matched.
“It seems to come down to Chase and East for the conference championship every year,” he said. “That could very well happen again this year. Our goal is to win the conference and we need to win this game to reach that goal. It is a huge game for us.”
While one coach is stressing the importance of the matchup, the other is trying to downplay it.
“I really don’t have much to say. To us, it’s just another game,” said Lady Cavalier coach Julie Powell. “Yes, it’s against Chase. Yes, it is a rivalry game, but as I’ve told the team all week, it is no more important than any other conference game we play. I’m just trying to get everybody to relax and focus on playing softball.”
Even with her relaxed approach, Powell admits that today’s contest will greatly impact the SMAC standings.
“We are undefeated in conference (5-0) and Chase has one loss (4-1),” she said. “When you look at it in terms of conference standings, I guess it is a big game.”
In order to come away with a win, each coach points to similar keys to victory for their respective teams.
“East is a very good hitting team,” Bailey said. “They are going to get their share of hits. The key is to limit them to singles and not let them get extra base hits. Our goal is to make them get three hits in a row before a run scores. At the same time, we need to get those extra base hits. They have a strong pitcher that we aren’t likely to get 18 or 19 hits off of like we did this past weekend at Myrtle Beach. The hits we do get are going to have to be in key situations to drive people in.”
“We need to bring our bats with us to win,” said Powell. “Our defense and pitching has been pretty solid all season, but we need to hit.”
Hitting the softball will be a tough task for both teams. After struggling early in the season, Chase sophomore Dakota Reid has settled down and lowered her ERA to 1.78 in 55 innings pitched.
“Dakota and the whole team have really played well since we started 0-2,” said Bailey. “They have shown a lot of grit and started taking things one inning at a time.”
While Reid will draw the start in the circle for Chase, East is yet to name their starter.
“We could go with experience and Klinnin Carson or start a really talented freshman, Savannah Davis,” said Powell. “Both are outstanding pitchers that bring a lot to the table, but I don’t know who will start yet.”
No matter who starts, fans should expect an exciting and competitive game.
“I think fans from both schools really look forward to this game,” said Bailey. “These teams show great sportsmanship toward one another and they respect each other. But that won’t stop either team from really going after it during the game. It’s a rivalry game and that’s what rivalries are supposed to be. It is going to be a great game.”
First pitch is set for 4:30 pm at Chase.