In the sport of softball, each player is required to wear a uniform with a visible number on the back. At some schools, it gets a little more complicated.
"We've had girls sometimes who want a certain number, but the girls who were here last year get their same number. The new girls get what's left," Evans softball coach Colette Cassedy said. "I don't really care who gets what, but I was beginning the process of handing them out the other day, and I started marking off the numbers that were available. I couldn't believe what I saw."
When Cassedy finished, more numbers were available than were taken. The Lady Knights lost six starters off last season's squad and will fill more open spots on the roster this year than any in recent memory.
"That's why it's hard to say what this season is going to be like. We have so many new players, I'm not sure yet," Cassedy said. "I'll know more after this first tournament."
That first tournament, in South Gwinnett, saw some of the best competition in the state including Marist, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge and Central Gwinnett.
Cassedy said that type of competition is exactly what she was looking for.
"It's like throwing them in the fire. That's the way I do it," she said. "It's hard to create pressure and game situations in practice, so I'll use this tournament as a measuring stick."
Although the Lady Knights will have several new faces this season, there's no shortage of team leaders either. Taylor Jones, last year's leading hitter for Evans, returns as a junior slap hitter this season along with power hitter Maddie Crawford and junior pitcher Kelsey Donnelly.
"We've got a lot of new girls so we need to learn how to work together," Crawford said. "We'll be more of a power-hitting team this year."
With a new team, Cassedy said she's also seen a new attitude this season. The competition in practices has become intense as the girls seek the six openings for starters.
"It makes things interesting," Cassedy said. "Right now they'll run through a fence if I tell them to. There's a competitive instinct there that you can't teach."
Evans' home opener will take place at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 against Thomson.
Head coach: Colette Cassedy
2005 record: 20-17
Player to watch: Kelsey Donnelly, a junior pitcher, could be one of the best hurlers at Evans, but she's coming off an ACL tear. The Lady Knights' early-season success will depend on how quickly Donnelly recovers from the injury.
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