The Wildcats return six starters, including pitcher Brooke Rogers, to face a tough schedule both in and out of Region 5-AAAAA.
“Our schedule is probably the toughest we have had in years,” coach Colman Roberts said. “We play Northwest Whitfield that first game. We beat them last year and they didn’t lose another game so we sort of have a friendly rivalry with them. Then we play Columbus, who won over 30 games last year and region is very tough.”
Even with stiff competition, Roberts still believes his team can go far this season.
“To win a state championship is the ultimate goal. You have to qualify first and that’s what we’re going to try to do. We have never won a region tournament in softball. That would be another goal,” Roberts said. “If somebody said that winning a state championship wasn’t their ultimate goal, I don’t know why they’re coaching.
“We expect good things this year.”
Roberts believes there are two keys to his team having a successful season.
“We must stay healthy and we need to be playing well at the end of the year,” he said. “Our best team was in 2004. We were 31-11, but we played our best ball at the end of the year. I’ve had teams that had great records, but we didn’t play well at the end of the year.”
The team’s success will largely be reliant on Rogers in the pitching circle. Last season’s Daily Tribune News pitcher of the year tied a school record with 19 wins. The junior tallied 85 strikeouts over 188 2/3 innings of work. She surrendered just 217 hits and 75 earned runs.
She also contributed offensively and will bat third in the Lady Wildcats’ lineup in 2013.
The team lost three players off the 2012 team who signed scholarships. Those players are Lacey Fritz, Taylor Braselton and Sydney Flowers.
Fritz was a catcher, Braselton the shortstop and Flowers was a second baseman.
Junior Sydney Hodorff will replace Fritz at the catcher position.
“She played in a lot of tournaments where we played five or six games and she caught a couple for us,” Roberts said of Hodorff. “She had a good summer. She’s going to be good behind the plate for us.”
Kereston Franklin, who played first base as a freshman in 2012, will move over to shortstop. Senior Darby Cagle and Brandee Godfrey will take over at first base and second base, respectively.
In addition to the six starters returning, Ashley Jordon is a player with experience who is coming off surgery that kept her out of the lineup in 2012. She will play left field and lead off for Woodland.
Center fielder Bailey Roberts will bat second.
Third base and right field are the positions that are still open at this point. Juniors Bridgett Hampton and Bailey Guyton will likely share time at third base. The situation in right field is a little more uncertain.
“We really don’t know right now,” Roberts said when asked who his right fielder will be. “It could be multiple people. We have 20 kids and have 20 good players. We are just trying to find the right fit and do what’s best for our team.”
Roberts believes that all 20 players are ready for the season after a very productive offseason.
“We played over 35 games this summer and we started evaluating at that point. Most of them played travel ball and worked real hard,” he said. “All 20 of our kids were here all summer and were at weight training during the spring. We played a lot of good teams all summer and got better. That’s what summer is all about.”
Roberts will get so see where his team stacks up Saturday at 11 a.m. as his team participates in a scrimmage at Woodland High against Kennesaw Mountain High.