Whether on the mound or at the plate, junior Layne Bailey has been a versatile player during her softball career.
Despite this season starting on a difficult stretch for Dawson County, the 2021 first-team All-Region player has not only kept up her tenacity — she has become an even more vital player for the Lady Tigers.
For her, emphasizing focus and calm during her outings has helped her pitch multiple complete games, most recently throwing a shutout against Lumpkin County in a 2-0 win Thursday.
“I'm just trying to focus on my circle and what I can do. An error or a hit — I have to let that go,” Bailey said. “I think that’s what happened last night. I just focused on getting the next batter and I think that’s what helped us get through it.”
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She contributed to both of the team’s first two wins of the season in recent weeks. In the first game against Gilmer County, she threw a dozen strikeouts in a complete game effort.
That outing would be followed up with an even stronger performance against Lumpkin, allowing just four hits and earning seven strikeouts.
Bailey’s improvements over time are proven on the stat sheet, with her team-leading 3.45 ERA over a full point better than where she ended last year.
She also currently leads the team with a .333 batting average and is joint-leader of the team with 12 hits.
Head coach Justin Rickett said that Bailey’s contributions have been an important part of the team's overall recent improvements.
“She does a very good job of controlling as much as she can from the mound — as far as helping people and making sure they're in the right spot,” Rickett said. “The same way that they have confidence in her, she has confidence in them.”
That reciprocal feeling is crucial for a Lady Tigers team that has gradually built its identity after the departure of several seniors from last year’s squad.
Along with Bailey, the youthful offense has started to heat up as region competition continues. Freshman Sadie Dotson has a dozen hits so far, freshman Bryce Greenwood has 10 hits with five doubles and sophomore Ace Cochran also has 10 hits.
Bailey noted that the team has been laser-focused on fundamentals during practice and that she is impressed with how far the freshman and sophomore players have come.
“We’ve been working on everything,” Bailey said. “The younger players are finally starting to step up and they’re working really hard.”
With around 12 games left to go, the team is looking to inch its way up the region 7-3A standings and play sound fundamental softball in preparation for the region tournament.
Rickett believes that Bailey’s influence on the team — both as a player and leader — will continue to be important.
“The last four or five times out [pitching] has been really good. As good as she’s been since I’ve coached her here the past two years,” Rickett said. “She’s done a really good job of supporting her teammates, getting excited when they make good plays and not getting discouraged when mistakes are made.”