Whapham shining as Nordonia softball's lead-off hitter

Roger Gordon
Correspondent
Nordonia Knights

Grace Whapham is the ultimate lead-off hitter.

The Nordonia sophomore outfielder is batting .426 on the season.

“That’s exactly what you want from a lead-off hitter,” Knights head coach Marissa Rizzo said. “She can bunt, she can hit, she finds her way on base, and almost every time she gets on base, she scores. It makes a real difference.

"She’s one of the two fastest players on the team. She could put a bunt down any day of the week and she’s safe almost every time because it makes the defense nervous. She really sets the tone being the lead-off hitter, which can be a lot of pressure, but she’s doing amazingly there.”

In addition to her bulging batting average, Whapham has scored 12 runs, has eight RBIs and leads her team with 11 stolen bases. For good measure, she has rapped two doubles.

Whapham began the season in the nine-hole.

“Then we started to switch things up a little bit and put her in the lead-off spot. And she really does a great job there,” said Rizzo. “She’s very tiny, but every time she gets on base you can just see how excited she is. She’s a real scrappy player. She’s exceeded my expectations.”

In four games last week, Whapham batted .556. She had two singles, a double, an RBI and three runs scored that helped Nordonia to a 13-4 home victory April 19 over Suburban League National Conference rival Twinsburg. With the win, the Knights improved their conference record to 3-5.

Four days later, on April 23, Whapham had three singles, an RBI and a run scored despite her team’s 15-8 home defeat to Cuyahoga Heights.

The next day, on April 24 in game one of a doubleheader, Whapham singled despite the Knights’ 6-5, nine-inning loss at Willoughby South. In game two, she singled three times, knocked in two runs and scored once in Nordonia’s 8-7 loss that dropped its overall record to 6-13.

Because of her blazing speed, Whapham also excels in the outfield, where she plays both right field and left field.

“Grace can cover a lot of ground out there,” Rizzo said. “She can cover so much of the foul territory. She’s so quick to get a ball. She takes a lot of extra bases away from the other teams’ hitters. She also has a really great arm.”

According to her coach, Whapham is a lead-by-example player who is super-coachable.

“She just wants to do the best she can all the time,” she said. “She really loves playing.”

Whapham runs indoor track during the fall and winter. She actually was going to run track for Nordonia last spring if not for the pandemic.

“We’re very happy,” said Rizzo, “that she changed her mind and came out for softball this season.”