FOUR OAKS — High school summer league softball is back for a second year with three Johnston County teams participating.
However, there are only two local teams since players from Cleveland have joined with Smithfield-Selma to field a team that’s playing as Smithfield-Selma. South Johnston is back for its second season.
Games are played from Monday through Thursday with doubleheaders that begin at 5 p.m.
It’s a new experience for players wearing the Spartan blue and gold this summer.
“We’re just excited to have the opportunity to have enough players to play,” said SSS coach Britney Smith. “We’re playing with about half players from Smithfield-Selma and half from Cleveland.”
Meshing those parts together is one of the biggest tasks the combined team has faced so far this summer.
“It’s just something you deal with starting with any team,” Smith said. “We’ll get 10-15 games in and be able to work around vacations with the players we have. This is a chance to play that these girls wouldn’t have had without this league.
“We don’t have many players out here who play on travel teams.”
The Spartan contingent includes seven players from Smithfield-Selma High and four players who played at either Selma or Smithfield middle schools this spring and will be freshmen in the fall.
There isn’t a junior varsity or varsity separation for the Spartans.
“In my eyes, we want to play the best we can but our main goal is to get players experience at this level,” Smith said.
South Johnston plays its varsity lineup in the opening half of doubleheaders then the junior varsity squad for most of the second game, according to Trojans coach Mickey Bridgers.
“We’re just working on fundamental skills,” Bridgers said. “We work on our approach to balls in the field and trying to get new players to work together. To be successful, we need them to do those things together in the field.”
South’s players will likely play in some different positions than normal during the course of the summer since the summer is the only extended period where coaches can tinker with lineups.
“You’ve basically got one week between the end of basketball season and the start of our season so there’s not any time to figure out which players have the athletic ability they need to maybe try a different position,” Bridgers said. “Here we can learn a little more about what a player’s limitations are and then find them a place where they can have the chance to play well and help the team.
“At the same time we’re trying to not look too far down the road. We just want to give the girls a chance to play and prove themselves at this level.”
The season runs through July 18. South Johnston and Smithfield-Selma will meet in Smithfield on July 16.
South wraps up its season with the Green and Gold Game two days later.
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest