Augusta Christian Schools softball team's mantra might be, "It's not how you finish, it's how you start."
The Lady Lions recently completed their first season of fastpitch softball, and the squad had a landmark campaign. AC advanced to the Georgia Independent School Association state playoffs and became the first girls' team from the school to win a state playoff game.
Augusta Christian Schools softball team performed well during its first season of fastpitch. In addition, team members Kristen Wallace (from left), Maggie Holmes, Brittany Little and Crystin Cromer each garnered post-season honors.
Photo by Mike Howell
But near the end of Augusta Christian's 6-3 victory over No. 1 seed Crisp Academy in the first-round playoff contest in LaGrange, Ga., AC's stellar season came crashing down.
Infielder Brittany Little and catcher Ayme Usry collided while chasing a pop-fly. Little took the brunt of the hit, suffering a fractured nose and a cut which required 28 stitches.
"It was a good season, but we had a rough day," she said.
In second-round play of the double-elimination tournament, disaster again struck the Lady Lions. Right fielder Ashlee Greene and second baseman Katie Holmes hit head-on, with Greene fracturing her nose and Holmes cracking her collarbone.
As if that wasn't enoughbefore Game 3, Augusta Christian coach Sandi Conn was hit in the head by an errant throw during warmups and suffered a concussion.
Despite the nightmarish conclusion to the campaign, Augusta Christian softball seems to be on the fast track, thanks to the switch to fastpitch.
"The one thing they were lacking was confidence, because they had never done this before. They really started to pick it up at the end of the season," Conn said. "It was frustrating to go down like we did, but it's exciting to look at the potential we have for the future."
The Lady Lions never had much success in slow-pitch softball, but AC managed a 5-5 record in Region 4 this season and closed with a 10-11 record. A season highlight was when the team knocked off region power North Cobb Christian.
"It was a big change, but we did pretty well," junior shortstop Crystin Cromer said. "We started hearing good stuff in the hallways. People were congratulating us."
After the season, several Augusta Christian players received region and state accolades.
Freshman pitcher Kristin Wallace was an all-region and all-state selection, Little and Cromer both were all-region and honorable mention all-state, and Maggie Holmes was invited to play in the GISA North-South all-star games.
The North-South all-star games feature top seniors from the GISA, but Wallace also earned an invite as one of the top four pitchers in the state.
Little, a sophomore, led the Lady Lions in hitting with a .500 batting average, and in steals (48). Cromer was solid in the field and provided overall leadership. Wallace tossed three no-hitters, stole 44 bases and was a proficient batter.
Wallace was one of several Lady Lions who had previous fastpitch experience. Had AC not made the change from slow to fastpitch, Wallace admits she would have considered changing schools. Now she's satisfied to see the AC softball program headed in the right direction.
The Lady Lions took a beating at state this year, but Maggie Holmes says AC will put the hurt on opponents in 2002.
"I think they'll do really well. I'm the only one graduating and we've got a great pitcher coming back," she said. "Things are definitely looking good for the future."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.