I know I haven't been in Columbia County long, but it's taken less than two weeks for me to realize something.
We are loaded with softball talent.
I'm not talking slow-pitch church softball - the kind I play, where grown men emerge weekly with knee braces, softball shorts, and egos the size of their first baseman's gut. I'm sure there's a wealth of that kind of softball talent here as well.
I'm talking about fast-pitch, high school, varsity girls softball. The kind with blazing underhanded fastballs from 40 feet away, stolen bases without leading off and continual, coordinated cheers from the dugout.
In Columbia County, talented softball players are as abundant as construction barrels and Masters Tournament experts.
Columbia County schools have a 38-21 overall combined record and a 9-2 record in region play entering Friday. Two teams, Greenbrier and Evans, are undefeated in Region 2-AAAA play, while Harlem, in Region 3-AAA, is battling for first place.
Greenbrier has established its softball program as the team to beat after winning the state championship last year. With an active streak of nine consecutive region championships, their dynasty is well-established.
Though other area schools don't have the winning tradition Greenbrier has, they are threatening to knock the queen off her throne.
Harlem already has come close this year. The Lady Bulldogs gave up only two runs to the defending state champs when the two teams met in late August. Harlem, however, failed to score in a 2-0 loss.
Since that game, the Lady Bulldogs have climbed to a tie for first place in their region, with a chance to take the top spot for themselves Tuesday at Cross Creek.
Evans also is starting to make a name for itself. The team has won nine of its past 12 games, including region wins over Jones County and Lakeside. On Aug. 30, the team put together an offensive explosion and beat Statesboro by a final score of 20-3. The Evans football team has yet to score that many points in one game.
Then there's Lakeside. At 5-6, it has the most losses in Columbia County, but it certainly is no pushover.
Last weekend, the Lady Panthers brought home a tournament championship at Patriots Park. Lakeside defeated Warner Robins and Evans in back-to-back wins to claim the Tournament Championship in the Silver Medal Division.
Augusta Christian's softball season is played in the spring. Last year, the Lady Lions won the SCISA Region 2-AAA Championship, a first in the program's history. This year, they're gunning to reach past the state quarterfinals.
Now we have five Columbia County softball teams with big potential and even bigger dreams.
And that's just school ball.
At last count, there are at least four travel fast-pitch softball teams in the county. I tried as best as I could to find them all, but there are more than enough talented girls in the area to fill several teams.
The Dominators, Augusta Flash, Georgia Rockers and Martinez-Evans Sting all field a full roster of talented players.
Despite the GHSA's decision to play softball in the fall (a less-than-ideal situation for travel ball teams), all four teams have seen their share of success.
This past summer, the Columbia County Recreation Department's Dixie Debs won the World Series title.
High school football might still be the main event in Columbia County, but I urge you to give softball a try. The games certainly don't last as long as a football game, but the girls work their tails off.
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