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Harlem, Greenbrier open with ranked softball teams

Poythress excels

Posted: August 19, 2012 - 12:10am

After terrific seasons in 2011, the Harlem and Greenbrier High School softball teams open up the 2012 season ranked in the top 10 statewide.

At Harlem, the Bulldogs made a nice playoff run in 2011 and posted an impressive 25-9 record. This season the team opened with a tough 2-1 loss to Elbert County, but came back with a pair of blowout wins. It topped Christian Heritage 19-0 (Elbert County beat Christian Heritage only 4-3) and crushed Thomson 10-2. The Bulldogs open the season ranked No. 8 in Class AA.

At Greenbrier, a move up to Class AAAAA has not stopped pollsters from ranking the Lady Wolfpack among the top softball teams in the state. The team is ranked third in the recent www.gasports.com poll. Greenbrier is coming off yet another terrific season. Last year it made another deep playoff run and finished 29-8. It opened 2012 with a 9-1 victory over Jefferson County and sits at 1-0.

Poythress excels

I have done several updates on former Greenbrier slugger Rich Poythress lately and they certainly are warranted. He could be on the verge of a September big league call-up by Seattle.

During the first half of the season Poythress was hitting the ball, but he was hitting it right at people. Even with numbers lower than he was accustomed to, the Mariners were impressed. The team’s general manager came to Jackson, Tenn., where Poythress plays Class AA, to let him know that, according to the “Quality At-Bat” statistics, he was tops for the Mariners’ minor league system.

It was then that Poythress went on the disabled list with a broken foot. That meeting, and his mediocre numbers, fueled his desire to come back from his stint on the DL and have a huge second half of the season.

First, he tore up pitching in Arizona during a rehab assignment, hitting .385 with three homers and seven RBI in just five games. He then went back to Jackson and has continued to tear the cover off the ball. Through 76 games, Poythress is 80 for 261 – a .307 batting average. That’s impressive when you consider he was hitting .265 prior to his injury. He also has six home runs, 42 RBI and 20 doubles.

While those stats are terrific, they are not the most impressive numbers for the former Greenbrier and University of Georgia star. His on-base percentage is a whopping .420, and he has one of the best walk-to-strikeout ratios in all of professional baseball with 59 bases on balls and just 30 strikeouts all season.

The Mariners have taken notice. Poythress recently won the franchise’s Hitter of the Month Award for July. It was the second time he has garnered the award this season, and it could mean the club is ready to promote the first baseman. It does not hurt that the player who seemed to be blocking Poythress’ path to Seattle, the highly touted Justin Smoak, was sent down to Triple-A after posting a .191 batting average through the Mariners’ first 91 games this season. He is not doing much better in the minors, hitting just .242 with no home runs and only four RBI in 20 games (82 plate appearances) for AAA Tacoma.

So keep an eye on Poythress for the next few weeks as Major League teams expand their rosters. Hopefully, he will get his first taste of the big leagues. He certainly has earned it.

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