The softball season begins at nearly the same time as the start of the school year for many local teams and is the early indicator that another cycle of high school sports is here.
Some teams already have a game under their belt and hope to be playing well into October. Here is a closer look at local squads:
Armuchee Lady Indians
Head coach: Shane Arp
Key returning players: Whitney Sanford, OF, Sr.; Katie Shinholster, OF, Sr.; Sarah Barnes, P/1B, Sr.; Abbie Roberson, C, Sr.
Outlook for this season: The Indians have a core group of seniors that head coach Steve Arp expects to lead a mostly young team, with the experience they gained last season integral to the team's success. “Last year, we were definitely down,” Arp said. “But we gained some experience, and there’s nothing like that game experience for players to grow.”
Coosa Lady Eagles
Head coach: Chris Jacobs
Key returning players: Emma Payne, SS, So.; M.J. Nichols, C, So.; Macy Nichols, 1B, So.; Kaitlyn Montgomery, 3B, Jr., LaTejah Spivey, OF, Jr.
Outlook for this season: After struggling last season with only two wins, head coach Chris Jacobs wants his team to just focus on competing in the tough Region 7-AA. “We just hope to be competitive in games,” Jacobs said. “We have a lot of young kids. With only one senior and three juniors, we just want to be competitive with everybody else.”
Darlington Lady Tigers
Head coach: Anna Swafford
Key returning players: Caroline Dingler, SS, Sr.; Karoline Hunt, 3B, Sr.; Lilly Fowler, P, Sr.; Olivia Adams, P, Sr.
Outlook for this season: Former Darlington standout Anna Swafford is looking to get her team adjusted to having a new coach and finding out how they all fit together as a team. “I think we have a shot to do something great this year,” Swafford said. “We’re really working on building a team chemistry and finding out what our team culture is and what is the standard we’re trying to set.”
Model Lady Blue Devils
Head coach: Brett White
Key returning players: Claire Chamberlain, P, So.; Hanna Reynolds, SS, Jr., Kendall Pewitt, 1B, Jr.; Claire Prault, C, So.
Outlook for this season: Brett White takes over a Model program that has been struggling over the past few seasons. He said he isn’t concerned with wins and losses, but wants his team to continually improve. “We’re going to be improved from last year,” White said. “I just want to get better each day, and hopefully be a lot better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the year.”
Pepperell Lady Dragons
Head coach: Jeff Rickman
Key returning players: Dahlia Sanford, IF/OF, Sr.; Jacey Blanton, 1B, Jr.; Chloe Jones, P/IF, So.; Cailey Mansell, OF, Jr.
Outlook for this season: The Lady Dragons turned a No. 4 seed in the state playoffs into a trip to the second round last year and head coach Jeff Rickman expects that same tenacity this season. “Our expectations each year are to play in October,” Rickman said. “That’s our expectations from Day 1 and that will never falter. That’s our goal. We want to play into October as long and far as we can.”
Rockmart Lady Yellow Jackets
Head coach: Steve Luke
Key returning players: Emma Evans, OF, Sr.; Carlee Graham, IN/P, Sr.; Caroline Conring, C/DP, Sr.; Kinsey Jones, SS/OF, Sr.; Macy McNabb, P/3B, Sr.; Lexie Sharpe, C/P/IF, Sr., Anna Lewis, 2B, Sr.
Outlook for this season: With seven seniors on the roster, head coach Steve Luke sees a unique opportunity for the Lady Jackets this season. “We’re a different team, but very talented,” Luke said. “We’re going to be a mix of old talent and new talent, and that’s good for this year and good for the future. We’re trying to mix that group, so it may take some time to hit our stride, but we hope to make a run at the end of the season.”
Rome Lady Wolves
Head coach: Jason Harris
Key returning players: Maci Andrews, IF/P, So.; Cassie Covington, OF, So.; Riley Jenkins, IF/C, Jr.; Mackenzie McNitt, IF/P, Jr.
Outlook for this season: While the Lady Wolves are young this season, first-year head coach Jason Harris feels last season provided some valuable experience. “We’re a young bunch still, but that’s not a bad thing,” Harris said. “In years to come, we’ll be good, but this year as well, with them having so much experience from last year. Most of the young players last year had to step up, so that experience will help us take the next step this year.”