Softball season kicking off
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Coming off a championship season, the LaGrange Academy Lady Warriors are ready to roll.
LaGrange Academy, which won the GISA state championship last season, will begin its season by playing in the Callaway Classic on Friday and Saturday at Shuford Fields.
LaGrange Academy will get an opportunity to test itself against some public-school teams, including Shaw and Callaway.
“If we weren’t playing, we’d be practicing anyway, so let’s just go out there and get better by playing those three games,” said LaGrange Academy coach Charles Parker who has guided the team to six state titles over the years. “Can we beat those three teams? I don’t know, but we can compete.”
Nearly every player from last year’s team returns, including senior Amber Corley, who was the winning pitcher in both games against Flint River in the state-championship series.
Other key returnees include Kayla McBride, Natalee Waddell, Lanie Lackey, Caley Worsley, Kelsey Cotton and Lexi Franklin, and newcomer Carolyn Lehman will step in as the catcher.
“Our girls are real excited to play,” Parker said.
LaGrange Academy won the state title in dramatic fashion with a victory over its arch-rival.
In the opening game of the best-of-three series against Flint River Academy, LaGrange Academy won 2-0 behind the pitching of Corley. In game two, Flint River appeared to be in control after taking a 6-3 lead into the final inning, but LaGrange Academy rallied for a 9-6 victory.
Megan Allen, the only senior on the team, came through with a bases-loaded double with two outs to drive in three runs and give her team the lead.
Corley set Flint River down in the bottom of the inning to finish it and give LaGrange Academy the title.
Corley and Lanie Lackey return to lead the way on the pitcher’s mound for the Lady Warriors.
“Both of our pitchers are back, and that’s the name of this game is pitching,” Parker said.
LaGrange Academy’s first game in the Callaway Classic will be against Shaw on Friday at 4 p.m.
On Saturday, LaGrange Academy plays Callaway at 10 a.m., and Brookstone at 2 p.m.
The LaGrange Lady Grangers, who also had a memorable 2019 season, will also begin their season in the Callaway Classic.
LaGrange went 24-13 last season and advanced to the eight-team state finals in Columbus where it lost to Heritage and Northside-Columbus.
It was the first time in more than 10 years that LaGrange made it to the state finals, and every starter from that team has returned, including six seniors.
“We just have a really great opportunity this year, just like we did last year, to be successful,” LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said earlier this summer. “I know our girls want it. Our coaches have really talked about making it to Saturday (in Columbus). We made it Thursday thorugh Friday last year, so this year let’s make it to Saturday.”
Among the returning players is senior Camden Smith, who went 18-4 with a 2.11 earned run average last season while hitting .344 with 20 RBIs.
Also back are fellow seniors Abby Vanhoose, Malone Aldrige, Madison Dennis, Kirsten Williams and Jacee Marable, who all had big 2019 seasons.
Most of the seniors have been starting since they were freshmen, and Heath has been with those players since before they were in high school.
“I coached a lot of them when they were younger,” Heath said. “I coached Abby Vanhoose when she was 10, 11 and 12 in travel ball, and Jacee and Camden played for me when they were 11 and 12. So I’ve known them for a long time.”
Other key returnees include Macee Stone, Holly Lynn and Mariana Ceja and Kate Asbell.
Also kicking things off this weekend are the softball teams from Troup and Callaway, although Callaway did play a preseason game on Tuesday.
Troup heads into the season under the direction of new head coach Ryan Simpson, who has taken over following the departure of Kayla Yeargin.
Simpson will have a solid group of veterans to lean on this season, including pitcher Maggie McDonald, as well as position players Lexi Parker, Christina Garcia, Lainey Braswell, Hadleigh Livingston, Casey Sani, Morgan Watkins, and Caroline McInvale.
Troup’s 2019 season ended with a hard-fought loss to Cedartown in the Region 5-AAAA playoffs.
After the teams split the first two games of the best-of-three series, Cedartown advanced with a 3-1 victory in game three.
During the summer, Simpson has gotten an opportunity to get to know her new players, and she said her relationship with them has expanded as the days and months have gone along.
“The girls are opening up,” Simpson said. “We’re having conversations, and that was very hard at the very beginning, which is understandable. I’m a new coach coming in.”
Callaway faced a strong Lamar County team in a preseason game on Tuesday, and it gave the coaches and players an idea of what needed to be worked on.
“We talked about what we saw that they messed up on, and they talked about what they want to work on,” Callaway head coach Robyn McCann said following Tuesday’s game. “So that’s what we’ll take into (practice).”
McCann will lead an experienced team into the Callaway Classic.
Among the returnees are Mya Lawton, Chaple Butler, Alora Vetsavong, McKenzie Rhodes, Lindsay Cofield, Aaliyah Morman, Tyterria Godwin and Faith Horton, all of whom played against Lamar County.
McCann also got an opportunity to see some new players in action.
“We just moved people around, tried to get everybody an at-bat,” McCann said.
CALLAWAY CLASSIC FRIDAY
4 p.m. – Trinity vs. Rockmart
6 p.m. – Trinity vs. Callaway
4 p.m. – Troup vs. Brookstone
6 p.m. – Landmark vs. Rockmart
4 p.m. – LaGrange Academy vs. Shaw
6 p.m. – Brookstone vs. Shaw
10 a.m. – Troup vs. Dougherty
Noon – Troup vs Trinity
2 p.m. – Columbus vs. Landmark
10 a.m. – Sandy Creek vs. Shaw
Noon – Sandy Creek vs. Landmark
2 p.m. – Shaw vs. Trinity
10 a.m. – Rockmart vs. Columbus
Noon – LaGrange vs. Rockmart
2 p.m. – LaGrange vs. Dougherty
10 a.m. – LaGrange Academy vs. Callaway
Noon – Callaway vs. Brookstone
2 p.m. – LaGrange Academy vs. Brookstone