How far will the team advance in the postseason is the usual question posed for the Evans and Greenbrier High School softball teams.
Both squads are coming off good 2013 campaigns; the Lady Wolfpack was 26-8 while the Lady Knights finished 17-14. Both were eliminated in the first round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA State softball tournament.
How far his team can go in 2014 is a question that Lady Wolfpack coach Garrett Black thinks is one the players hold the answer to.
“We’re at a point right now where we have a choice to make,” said Black during Wednesday afternoon’s practice. “Are we going to come out here and work hard everyday and have a chance to be good or are we going to settle for being average? That’s where we are right now.”
The Lady Wolfpack, who open at home tomorrow against Burke County at 5:30 p.m., lose just three seniors from their 2013 squad. They were three starters and 2013 All-Region and All-County performers, however, in catcher Lee Ann Rees, first baseman Brooke Mackelburg and shortstop Taylor DuPree.
Black isn’t looking for a specific player to step up and be the difference-maker but rather a group.
“We always put that on our seniors,” Black said. “This is their last year. It’s important to them, it means a lot to them and they’re the ones that set the tone. They’re the ones who are going to set the example.”
The Lady Knights opened with five games Friday and Saturday in a tournament at South Gwinnett. They have nine games before they get into the Region 2-AAAAA part of the schedule, playing host to Richmond Academy on Aug. 26.
The Lady Knights lost just two seniors in outfielder Alexis Schlein and starting pitcher Natalie Johnson. Head coach Colette Cassedy is optimistic about what she’ll get from her hurlers.
“I’ve got Brooke Buck and Samantha Davis right now,” Cassedy said. “We’ve got a young girl coming up, Morgan Holz. We can’t say we’ve got an ace, they’ve all been working pretty hard and hopefully they’ll be able to come through for us.”
Among the talented returners are All-Region and All-County infielders Elyssa Melton and Ashton Odum. Possibly one of the best things the Lady Knights have going for them are the numbers that have turned out. In past years Cassedy has had to be creative in getting players out to the field.
“This year so far we’ve had 35 people tryout,” Cassedy said. “We’ve got pretty much full squads. We haven’t had to ask people in the halls.”
Perhaps the biggest returner to the squad is junior Taylor Hayes. Hayes was unable to finish the season a year ago, having to spend six weeks in Boston to undergo treatment for a brain tumor. While she still has to deal with the tumor, her outlook was sunny at Tuesday’s practice.
“I just feel really blessed to be able to come out here,” said Hayes. “When I went up to Boston I saw so many kids, they were doing radiation and chemo. I feel really blessed to have the physical ability to come out here. I went for a scan in June and the tumor has actually shrunk and that’s what we were hoping for.”
She is appreciative of all the support she has received, especially from her teammates which includes her sister Brooke.
“It really means a lot because they were so supportive during the whole ordeal,” Hayes said. “Just to be able to be out here to help my teammates win, hopefully, is really great.”