GREENSBORO - Ryanne Hill came to North Carolina A&T with a strong softball team in place. Most of the pieces were there for a championship. The Aggies were coming off of an appearance in the MEAC Championship Game, and had a strong group of sophomores returning the next season.
Therefore, as a freshman, Hill became another key addition to a program headed to the top. Things didn't end that way for Hill. As a senior, she played on a team with ten freshmen and little to no experienced pitching.
Yet, Hill showed a new level of maturity. She became a leader, and she did what she always did during her career at N.C. A&T. She got hits. Her career came to an end Sunday as the Aggies lost to Bethune-Cookman 7-0 at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex.
Hill went 2-for-3 in the game to finish this season with a career-high .389 batting average. In her career, she used a textbook swing to hit .329 with 18 home runs and 127 RBIs. It will be strange to see another player trot out to left field. Hill occupied left field for head coach Mamie Jones for 172 games over the last four years. On Saturday, she graduated from N.C. A&T with a degree in animal science.
The Aggies will move forward without Hill, one of the program's best contact hitters, who won the 2009 MEAC Player of the Year award along with All-American honors. The team honored her on Sunday along with sophomore Hope Fletcher, who had the highest grade point average on the team this year with a 3.57 in fashion merchandise and marketing.
After Sunday's ceremony, the Wildcats were led by Michelle Banuelos' three-run home run in the third inning. Kelsey Rodney went 2-for-2 with one RBI.
The Wildcats (28-23, 12-0) head to the MEAC Tournament May 12-14 in Ormond Beach, Fla., as the favorite. Meanwhile, the Aggies (7-35, 1-11) enter the offseason with the comfort of knowing the nucleus of the team returns. Pitchers are on the way to help the Aggies slow down the oppositions' offense.
Stronger pitching should help sluggers such as Sabrina Edmonds and Juanita Jernigan relax at the plate knowing they don't have to score numerous runs in order to win. The Aggies also have table setters who can get on base for the sluggers. Detavia Kenan and Hope Fletcher both had on-base percentages better than .380 this season.
The addition of pitching should also be of great assistance to Fletcher and Tranea Jones. Both players had to play out of position this season in order to pitch.
Hill will have to see the improved Aggies from outside the dugout next season. However, her leadership in what would be a frustrating season for any senior, could go a long way in seeing the Aggies program return to the MEAC Tournament in 2012.