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Harlem and Greenbrier come together to promote softball

Posted: April 28, 2015 - 11:10pm  |  Updated: April 29, 2015 - 1:05am

Columbia County has been playing fast-pitch softball less than two decades. Despite that, the county now boasts several of the premier programs in the state.

That certainly was not the case in the beginning. As a matter of fact, when they first began, our programs were so far behind some of the Atlanta schools it seemed like they would never be able to seriously contend in the sport statewide. I remember having discussions back in the late ’90s with some of the area coaches about what it would take to make them competitive.

Mostly it was thought that it was simply going to take time. Well, with good coaching, hard work, perseverance, and some talented young ladies in the county, it only took a few years for our teams to compete with the top programs around the state, culminating in a AAAA state title for Greenbrier in 2004 in only the program’s eighth year of fielding a team in fast pitch softball.

Over the last 17 years Greenbrier, Evans and Harlem have become programs that can be counted on year after year to field excellent teams, with Harlem and Greenbrier making deep runs in the state tournament seemingly every year. Greenbrier won the school’s second state softball title this season and Harlem has a crop of young players that make them a team to watch in 2015-16.

Greenbrier and Harlem also have two of the more respected coaches in the state in Garrett Black (Greenbrier) and Mike Leverett (Harlem). Both have long ties to the community and each played baseball in the county. Black played on some of the great Evans baseball teams in the ’80’s, while his father, Danny, was an assistant coach, and Mike played on Harlem’s 1981 state championship team, and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 18th Round in 1983. So, these two basically knew nothing else but winning, and they brought that mentality to the softball programs at each school.

Well, now, for the first time ever, they are coming together to promote the sport and offer top-flight instruction to the younger softball players in the county. The Columbia County All-Star Softball Camp will take place June 8-12 and is open for girls in first through eighth grades. The camp will run daily from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is designed to teach the fundamentals of hitting and fielding, as well as skills needed during in-game situations.

The clinic will be held at Patriots Park and will offer agility training with Greenbrier Alum Ryan Bowers of AthElite Sports Training Academy as well as learning all aspects of the sport of fast pitch softball from two of the state’s top coaches. Black and Leverett will not be alone, they are bringing back some of the top players their programs have produced to help out with the camp.

Former Alabama All-American Kaila Hunt headlines a list of former All-State caliber talent that will be on hand to assist the campers. In addition to Hunt, current and former college players Savanah Coon (Greenbrier/ Georgia Southern), Lindsey Stokes (Harlem/ GRU), Taylor Dupree (Greenbrier/ College of Charleston), and Brittany Leverett (Greenbrier/ Columbus State) are just a few of the players that will be coming back for this one of a kind camp.

Who would ever think that two county schools that are usually bitter rivals would come together to host a camp?

Well, Black and Leverett realized the importance of continuing to promote the sport so that the county can sustain its success far into the future.

This camp can go a long way towards that. All it takes is getting more girls interested in the sport and giving them proper instruction at an early age.

It has worked for decades for Columbia County baseball and there is no reason to think it will not work in fast-pitch softball and Black and Leverett are two quality coaches to lead the charge.

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