Considering Columbia County's high school softball programs switched to fast-pitch in 1997, which wasn't that long ago, you would think our local squads would have a tough time competing with established fast-pitch schools from areas such as Atlanta and Columbus.
Perhaps we underestimated the talent pool in Columbia County, because our prep teams already have built quite a reputation throughout the state.
Great athletes and coaches have been a big key to the early success, and with the summer travel teams speeding the development of young softball players, a state high school championship could be captured by a Columbia County high school team in the near future.
There is an abundance of skilled underclassmen on the local softball squads, and college coaches have started to take notice.
Of course, there are some current seniors who are blazing a trail to the collegiate level this year.
First is Evans standout Anna Cheely. She also was one of the school's top basketball players, but her specialty is softball. Cheely has signed to play at Georgia College & State University.
Cheely won't be alone in Milledgeville - Greenbrier's Nikki Smith will be suiting up for the Lady Bobcats as well.
Smith has been a big part of the Lady Wolfpack's region-title teams the past four seasons, and while a state title proved elusive, Smith and her teammates have helped build Greenbrier into a legitimate championship contender.
One of Smith's teammates was Katie Sutherland. The Greenbrier senior excels in a number of sports, most notably basketball (All-county team) and softball (all-region and all-state).
Sutherland has signed to play softball for Tennessee Tech this fall.
Those players are only the tip of the iceberg. Every year, college coaches court Columbia County's softball seniors, and I have a feeling that trend will continue to grow in the coming years.
Undoubtedly, high school baseball has earned the reputation as king in Columbia County, but give the softball programs some time, and they might vie for the throne.
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