Mandy Lewandowski is undefeated in her first year as coach of the Philip Simmons High School girls’ varsity softball team. She’s not in the mood to celebrate, however. She’s more likely to commiserate.
The team has played only two games this spring and swept a doubleheader from Region 6-AA for Lake Marion, winning Game 1 in a contest called by a mercy rule and then captured a close encounter.
Other than that, it’s been practice and a waiting game as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down most opponents this spring.
“I feel bad for the girls, especially the seniors,” said Lewandowski, an Ohio native who now has been a resident of the Lowcountry for almost a decade. “They get so excited to play and then have to wait for a month. I feel especially bad for the seniors. Their last two seasons have been interesting and unfortunate to say the least.”
There are only 12 players on the roster and two players are in their first year of softball. There are four seniors and all are starters, including pitcher Kendall Hammett, center fielder Bailey Pinckney, first baseman Anna Costas and her twin, second baseman Alexa Costas.
“I know they are thankful to practice and to play every once in a while, but it’s just not the same for the seniors,” Lewandowski said. “They missed last year and they are missing a lot this year.”
The team is scheduled to play a doubleheader against region foe Timberland on April 16, then play region foe Woodland home and away to conclude the regular season.
Like all the other sports, the S.C. High School League has cut the playoffs from 32 to 16 teams. That means the Iron Horses must finish in either first or second place in the region to qualify.
With a 2-0 record in Region 6-AA play, the Iron Horses are off to a good start.
“Yes, it would be quite an accomplishment to win the (region) championship,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski attended Solon High School near Cleveland and chose to matriculate south, landing at Auburn. In her final quarter, she took a job at North Charleston High School, teaching math.
She stayed at North Charleston for six years, and helped a friend, Kelly Walsh Edwards, start the softball program at the school.
“I loved North Charleston,” Lewandowski said. “Helping start the program and working with the girls outside of the classroom made for some great memories.”
Lewandowski inherits a program that’s not brand new. But it hopes to achieve new heights.
“Our goal is to grow the program,” Lewandowski said. “We’re just thankful to practice and play some games. But it’s not the same. We lose four seniors next year and that will be a huge hit. We just have to get students interested and grow the program.”
The promise and potential seem to belong to a pair of eighth-graders and a seventh-grader. The eighth-graders are pitcher and third baseman Madison Knoll and shortstop Angelina Migliara.
Seventh-grader Skyler Budreau can play where needed, and is in left field for now.