Changes and new growth look to be a part of the high school softball season for area teams this year. But they all still fight for the same thing — success and victories in the postseason.
Two local squads in Region 7-AA are hoping to build on their finish last season while spotlighting some young talent on their rosters
Pepperell head coach Jeff Rickman, along with other 7-AA coaches, agree the competition in the conference will be fierce as always. Last season, all top four seeds — Rockmart, Chattooga, Dade County and Pepperell — reached the second round of the state playoffs.
“Our region is tough,” Rickman said. “Every night you step out to play, it’s going to be an obstacle.”
There will be one major difference for Region 7-AA teams this season. The region's coaches voted to not have a season-ending tournament, meaning the top four teams in the standings will move on to the state playoffs.
Rockmart head coach Steve Luke said that with the removal of the region tournament, each region contest this season take on a bigger importance.
“Our region is very competitive,” Luke said. “I’m not a big fan of not having a region tournament. Every game you play in the region now is a region championship game. The tiebreakers will play a major role at the end of the season.”
Pepperell is coming off a historic season that saw the Lady Dragons reach the second round of the Class AA state playoffs for the first time in school history.
Rickman said the team’s pitching will be key to the team’s success with sophomore Chloe Jones will be the one the Lady Dragons look to in the circle. The Lady Dragons loss a talented group of seniors in Maddie Clay, Maycy Owens, Josie McGraw and Sydnie Edwards.
“We’re really going to rely on our pitching,” Rickman said. “Chloe Jones does a great job and we’re expecting a lot out of her to keep us in ball games.”
Rockmart has some key players making a return this season, like Carlee Graham and Caroline Conring, but will also look to younger players like Emilee Register and Alexis Teems to step into the spotlight.
“They’re juniors that have potentially been in the shadows of former players,” Luke said. “I expect them to break out and be a surprise this season.”
Armuchee was just outside of the top four in the region this past season, finishing with an overall record of 7-17. Head coach Shane Arp said his team is bringing a lot of enthusiasm and hopes to be more competitive, but playing in such a competitive region makes it difficult.
“I’m excited about how the group of young kids is coming,” Arp said. “They love to play the game, and they want to get better. I’ve said it for years that I’d put (Region 7-AA) up against any region in the state. Just look at what the region has done for years.”
Some local teams will have new faces leading them onto the diamond this season, though they will not be completely unfamiliar.
Longtime Model assistant coach Brett White is now the Lady Blue Devils' head coach, while Rome High's head girls' basketball coach and athletic director Jason Harris will head up the Lady Wolves team.
Darlington will also have some familiarity in the dugout this season with former Lady Tiger standout Anna Swafford starting her first season as head coach.