However, Woodland head softball coach Colman Roberts has a pretty good grasp on what his team has in the dugout this season as seven seniors and six returning starters are back for the 2014 season, which begins Friday at defending Class AAAA state champ Northwest Whitfield.
“Definitely state playoffs,” Robert said of his goal this season. “It would be very disappointing if we don’t make it. Of course, winning region would be big. It would be tough, but that’s not my No. 1 goal. My No. 1 goal is to be playing after region, so that’s what we’re going to work for.”
Woodland reached the state playoffs a season ago with a 16-17 overall record and returns several players, particularly up the middle of its defense.
Senior Brooke Rogers will be the team’s primary starting pitcher for the third consecutive year. As a junior, Rogers pitched to a 1.73 ERA in 170 innings and totaled 136 strikeouts. She was selected to the Region 5-AAAAA All-Region first team for her efforts as a pitcher, but also contributed at the plate with a .316 batting average, one game-winning home run, 23 runs scored and 14 RBIs in 95 at bats.
Rogers’ battery mate also returns in senior catcher Sydney Hodorff, while Kereston Franklin will be a junior and begins her second season as the team’s starting shortstop.
In center field will be senior Bailey Roberts, who was an all-county selection last year and provides a strong glove in center field.
Third baseman Bridgett Hampton returns for her senior season and was an all-county selection in 2013 when she hit .340 with a .432 on-base percentage and three home runs. She also was tied for the county lead with 29 RBIs.
“We have a lot of good seniors,” Colman Roberts said. “That’s good now, but we’re going to be sad to see them go. I know it’s a long ways away, but I’m already thinking about it.”
Even with so many prominent players returning, Woodland will miss all-county co-player of the year Ashley Jordan in left field and fellow Georgia Highlands commit Brandee Godfrey at second base. In addition, the team lost first baseman Darby Cagle.
“They’re going to be big losses,” Roberts said of his three departed seniors. “We’re going to move on, but I don’t think you can replace them. They brought things to the team — Ashley was a power slapper, Brandee had speed, good defense and had certain qualities. Darby was a leader and had a good glove, so we hope that people that are going to replace them give us that same effort.
“We still have some question marks and we’re going to put them in the fire and try to play the best that makes us better.”
Bailey Guyton also was a starter a season ago in right field and is recovering from a knee injury. Roberts believes she will be ready by the end of the month. However, Roberts feels confident with Sheena Craig in right field.
“Sheena has been hitting well all summer,” Roberts said. “She made some adjustments. She really had a good summer. She’s just a dang hard worker.”
While sophomore Taylor Calhoun will take over for Jordan in left field, senior Valerie Glass will replace Cagle at first base. Glass may end up the leadoff hitter with plenty of protection from Bailey Roberts, Rogers, Hampton and Franklin behind her.
“I’ve coached Valerie since she was about 8 or 9 years old. She just picked up slapping and she’s doing well,” Colman Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Courtney Godfree will take her sister Brandee’s place at second base this year as a junior.
“Courtney is going to do a good job at second,” Roberts said. “Second is tough in fast-pitch because they’re constantly covering first and they’ve got a lot to do. [Godfrey] is a good fielder and she’s going to get right in there and she proved that in summer. She looked good.”
Along with the stability of having several players returning, Woodland had a full summer schedule in which the team played over 30 games. The preparation should prepare the Lady ’Cats for their new sub-region, Region 7A-AAAAA, which will include Cass, Creekview, Dalton, River Ridge, Rome and Sequoyah. Creekview was the team that put Woodland out in the first round of the state playoffs in 2013.
Still, the competitive region will not be any more challenging than Woodland’s non-region schedule. The team will play Cherokee, Kennesaw Mountain, Hillgrove, Darlington and Lassiter, among other strong teams.
“That’s why I put the schedule together like we do, to prepare us for the end of the year,” Roberts said. “Everybody in our non-region we play went to the state playoffs, and a lot of them, like Hillgrove, went to Columbus, so we’re looking forward to the season and getting going.”