The sound of a softball hitting a mitt and the sharp metallic noise that a bat makes when it connects just right are starting to be heard again at Dawson County High School. Yes, softball season is almost here and for the Dawson County Lady Tigers games will begin soon.
There seems to be a new attitude among the players at the high school.
The team is coming off a third place finish in Region 8-AA (A) and a spot in the state tournament last season. Dawson fell to eventual state champion, Buford, in the first round 6-0 and 10-1 to finish last season with a 14-15-1 overall record.
Dawson will have only seven practices under its belt before the Lady Tigers will play a scrimmage at North Forsyth High School tomorrow.
"It’s really hard to get a grip when we practiced before school was in," said Head Coach Jimmy Pruett. "Everything seems out of whack, but I like what I see. It has been great in the way the players are working, especially our senior leadership."
Kristi Hyams, Kimberly Wallace, Morgan Huber and Anna Torres are the returning seniors on this year’s team. All have extensive varsity experience and it shows in the way they handle themselves at practice, according to Pruett.
Wallace will return at catcher. Defensively she may be one of the best catchers in the region. She will also cause havoc from the plate with her speed and ability to hit.
Third base will most likely belong to Morgan Huber, who played the position last year. Huber is a gritty player with speed, defense and a strong bat.
Hyams is slotted for one of the outfield positions, along with Torres. Both players field the ball well and can damage opponents at the plate.
"We have been stressing more defense," Pruett said. "I haven’t let them swing the bat much at practice. We are hoping the emphasis on defense will pay off in the long run. Speaking of running, we have done more of that this preseason than we have done in a long time."
On defense, the Lady Tigers will start Wallace at catcher, Martie Rogers and Jenna Abbott at first base, when they aren’t pitching; Gracie Hovan or Natalie Burt at second; a combination of either Huber or Samantha Moulder at third and shortstop. The outfield will be made-up of Hyams, Torres, Carly Gilreath, Becca Monkus and Taylor Shirley, according to Pruett.
"I have seen improvements in several of these players since last season. Martie Rogers has really improved at pitcher and at first. Samantha Moulder has played well for us this preseason. Carly Gilreath is a true competitor. She can play just about anywhere. When Martie got tired pitching at camp, we put Carly in and she did great. It was the first time she had pitched since seventh grade," Pruett said.
"We basically are looking early on to see who plays where. We have to find the right nine players. We have to establish some depth at different positions," Pruett said of his expectations for his team during the scrimmage game.
The junior varsity will be up first against North’s junior varsity team. That scrimmage will begin at 4:30 p.m. with the varsity teams to follow.
In what some coaches argue is the toughest region in the state, Dawson will be very competitive.
Behind the strong left arm of Jenna Abbott, the Lady Tigers should be able to improve on their record from last season.
Union County will return pitcher Angie Hughes, who is very tough, from a team that went deep in the playoffs and won 30 plus games.
The Lady Rebels from Fannin County return all but one player and will be difficult to defeat.
Banks County was young last season. Rounding out the sub-region will be Rabun County and East Hall.
In the other sub-region will be powers North Oconee and Walnut Grove. Jefferson was down last season, but started many young players and they have had some transfers move in from Jackson County High School.
"If you can do well in this region your chances in advancing in the state playoffs are really good," Pruett said.
After the scrimmage with North Forsyth on Thursday, the Lady Tigers will play in the Lanier Point Softball Tournament in Gainesville.
Dawson will open the tournament against Chestatee High School at 5 p.m. Friday, before playing again at 8 p.m. against Rabun County.
The Lady Tigers will then play at 11 a.m. Saturday against Habersham Central.
Seeding will be determined depending on the team’s record against those three teams.