By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
Three William Byrd senior softball players will have the opportunity to represent their high school on the diamond this summer thanks to the work of a few Terrier coaches and parents. A softball game for graduated high school seniors is being planned for July 20 and 21 at the Lord Botetourt High School field.
Kassie Brammer, a William Byrd High School assistant softball coach, came up with the idea. She saw where there would be a senior game for baseball and figured the same could easily be done for the softball girls. Byrd has three seniors, Lexi Powell, Bri Hodges and Kami Kilinski.
“Kassie has been working hard getting this game together,” said Byrd head coach Greg Barton. “I’m so excited for these kids to get a chance to finish the senior year with a positive event. I’ll be one of the coaches and I’m as excited as the kids. I hope the turnout will be huge as it will be a fun day.”
The Terriers won the Class 4 state championship last spring. They moved to Class 3 this year and were excited to begin the season when it was delayed, then cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It broke my heart that the seniors wouldn’t have their annual ‘Senior Day’ game,” said Brammer, who played high school softball at Byrd and collegiately at James Madison University before returning to Vinton as a coach. “We made them some gifts but wanted them to have a day that was really special. Originally we thought of having a senior day at Byrd, with all the girls and some recent alumni participating, but that didn’t work out because we couldn’t even be on the field. So, we decided to open this up to girls from all over.”
Brammer contacted Gary Walthall, who is one of the organizers of the baseball senior game, to see what it would entail to do the same for the girls.
“Gary was great,” said Brammer. “He’s a Byrd guy and I’ve seen him at our games. He gave me contact information to get started and some other ideas.”
With the help of William Byrd parents Lisa Powell and Denise Hodges and assistant coach Melissa Vaughn notices were sent out to area coaches and athletic directors to get the word to the girls who were eligible to participate. While the baseball game is for the area served by the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame, the softball game will be for any senior girl in the area and beyond who would like to play.
“If someone wants to drive two hours to participate, we’ll be glad to have them,” said Brammer.
As of the beginning of the week 26 girls had signed up. The cut-off day for signing up isn’t until July 10 so there’s plenty of time to add players. Brammer would like to have four teams of 12, so another 22 would be needed to make that happen. She hasn’t been able to reach all the coaches in the area and is working on getting the word out that this is going to happen.
“It was harder than I expected to get e-mails for the coaches,” said Brammer. “I know there are some people out there who would want to play and haven’t heard about this.”
Jim Farmer, who is in charge of all the ballfields in Botetourt County, volunteered to have the games played at Lord Botetourt High School and is awaiting final approval from the county. The scheduled dates are Monday and Tuesday, July 20 and 21. There will be two games each night at 6 and 8 pm.
“I’m very excited to have this game at our field,” said LB coach Cheryl Shockley, who will be one of the coaches for the game.
Once the July 10 cutoff date rolls around organizers will split the girls into four teams, and each team will have a different colored shirt. The front will be the same, but the back will have the girls’ name and number.
“If we have duplicate numbers, that’s fine,” said Brammer. “We want the girls to have their own number. They can wear any color pants, socks and belt of their choosing. They will wear their own helmet and use their own equipment.”
The players will all be introduced on the infield along with their parents.
“It will be just like a senior day,” said Brammer. “We’ll announce their plans after high school and give them a rose. We want this to be special.”
Brammer already has a dozen high school coaches lined up to participate in the game. She figures three per team will suffice, with first and third base coaches on the bases and another in the dugout.
Volunteers to coach include Barton, Shockley, Johnny Counts of Salem, Lonnie Raines of Glenvar, Ryan Firebaugh of James River, Amber Waskewicz of Hidden Valley, Nic Sharpe of Cave Spring, Gary Harris of Jefferson Forest, Bryan Forbes of Franklin County, Dustin Campbell of Northside, Meaghan Funk of Floyd County and Marty McMahon of Blacksburg.
Anyone who would like to play and has yet to sign up, or knows of someone who would like to play, can contact Kassie Brammer at email@example.com. There is a “Go Fund Me” page to cover the cost of umpires, jerseys and any other expenses that might come up.
“People can e-mail me and I’ll be happy to share the link,” said Brammer. “This is going to be free to the public, and a chance to acknowledge these girls as the all-stars they are.”