The two most dominant teams in Columbia County softball will enter the season with high expectations but coming at it from different angles.
The Greenbrier High School Lady Wolfpack won the 2012 Region 2-AAAAA title, making a deep run in the Class AAAAA state playoffs, making it to the final eight with a 30-8 mark.
The Harlem Lady Bulldogs won the 2012 Region 3-AA title, also advancing to the round of eight in the Class AA state playoffs and finishing with a 29-9 record.
The Lady Wolfpack lost just one senior off a deep, talented team while the Lady Bulldogs must replace six senior starters.
“We’re going to end up starting some freshmen,” said Lady Bulldogs coach Mike Leverett, adding that Amber Garrett and Lindsey Stokes would help provide leadership. “They’ve got big shoes to fill because every position a freshman’s going to be playing, the one who left ended up signing a college scholarship.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ three returning starters, Christian Mullis, Garrett and Stokes are a sturdy base on which to build.
Mullis, the Lady Bulldogs senior centerfielder, is expected to bat second in the lineup a year after batting .338 with 14 runs scored. That run total should go up batting ahead of senior third baseman Stokes.
In 2012, Stokes batted .524 with 37 RBI and seven home runs en route to being named to the 2012 Class AA All-State first team, as well as being the Region 3-AA player of the year. She liked making it to the state playoffs in Columbus, Ga., a year ago and is looking to go back.
“I don’t expect anything less, I don’t,” said Stokes, who has committed to play for Georgia Regents University. “We’re young but we’re good.”
Garrett was also an all-state first team selection and the region pitcher of the year after a freshman season in which she went 16-4 with a save and a 1.29 earned-run-average.
“It gives the young girls a chance to adjust,” said Leverett of Garrett being on the mound. “They ain’t got to make every play because she’s definitely going to strike out some.”
Greenbrier head coach Garrett Black returns seven starters from 2012 including senior shortstop Taylor DuPree, a 2012 Class AAAAA All-State first teamer and the Region 2-AAAAA player of the year after batting a school-record .530.
Junior outfielder Maddie Hunt (.451, 43 runs, 21 RBI) was also an all-state first team selection while sophomore third baseman Kirsten McMonigle (.400, 30 runs, 17 SB) and senior catcher Lee Anne Rees (.355, 37 RBI) were all-state second-teamers.
Senior first baseman Brooke Mackelburg was an All-County first team performer batting .354 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 43 RBI as was junior pitcher Kirsten Titus, who was 21-6 with a 2.89 ERA.
“On paper I like what I’m looking at, but it’s not played on paper,” said Black. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be and we can’t live off last year.”
The Lady Bulldogs open their season Friday at 4 p.m., playing host to the Chick-fil-A Tournament at Patriots Park. The Lady Wolfpack begin play at home against Thomson on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 5:30 p.m.