When asked about North Forsyth second basemen Madelyn Oliver, Lady Raiders head coach Bud Henderson and opposing coaches in the county agree on one thing: Oliver is a “fearless” competitor.
Strong words, but no surprise, considering the sophomore played in every game as a freshman last season. Now, before she has a driver’s license, North’s sure-gloved rover on the right side of the infield has become a staple of a team on the rise.
But that fearless mentality hasn’t always existed—it was absent for a brief moment last season when Oliver had her first pressure situation at the plate.
It was North’s first game, Aug. 12 against Johns Creek, and Oliver approached the batter’s box with two outs and bases loaded. She at least felt like she wasn’t entirely prepared for the moment.
“I was so nervous because I didn’t want to get out,” Oliver said. “But I got a single. I definitely remember that moment.”
After a year, Oliver has taken complete ownership of her role on the team.
“You have to be a leader, definitely, for the infield sometimes,” Oliver said. “You have to move a lot at second because you have to go all the way behind first to second to get ground balls and everything else. There’s a lot of responsibility.
“I’m just more comfortable with everything like hitting and fielding. I’m more comfortable with the girls on the team and am just more relaxed.”
Last season North finished 9-16 and 8-10 in Region 6-AAAAAA. Now the Lady Raiders are 10-3, 4-2 and in the thick of the region standings with Lambert, South and West all fielding high-caliber teams.
“All of the competition in this region is really good compared to last year,” Oliver said. “We are doing better than we were. The most recent game against West, the team might have been a little nervous, and hopefully next time we play them we won’t be.”
In other words, if the team can knock off the nerves like Oliver has in the past, the sky’s the limit for a team that’s still trying to understand how good it is. For Oliver, she said she’s starting to realize how productive she can be as a hitter. While she’s always prided herself on her work on defense, the performances at the plate are beginning to come around.
So far this season Oliver has 14 hits in 35 plate appearances for a .400 average, along with six RBIs, three doubles and a home run.
“Last year I hit okay at the beginning and then it went downhill. This year I’m trying to pick up my batting average,” Oliver said.
She’s also learning to use her voice more on the field.
“I’m not afraid to do anything,” Oliver said. “Last year we had a bunch of upperclassmen that played and nobody was afraid to give advice, but I wasn’t that talkative. Towards the end of the season I became more talkative for sure.”
Oliver has also grown closer to her teammates by playing on a club team in the spring called, wait for it—the North Forsyth Raiders. The club team, which played in seven tournaments last season, is made up of Oliver and other North teammates, rather than consisting of top-level players from schools from different counties.
“It’s a lot more fun I guess because you’re with your friends all the time. It’s not like we weren’t trying to win, but we were trying to have fun and not be so serious,” Oliver said.