The Statesboro Blue Devil softball team will be trying to accomplish something this year that they have failed to do in the fastpitch softball era, advance to the state playoffs without Brinson Ann Rogers on the mound.
The Blue Devils have advanced to the state playoffs the past four years, but this year will have to do it without Rogers, who is off to start her collegiate career at Louisiana Lafayette. The Blue Devils will also be without five other starters from last year’s team, a few of whom were multiple year starters.
In addition to the players Statesboro lost, they also lost Jim Simmons, who was the only coach they have had in the fastpitch era. Simmons retired, and has been replaced with Kaylee Coleman, who has been as assistant coach at Statesboro the past four seasons.
“Coach Simmons was a tremendous role model for me the past four years,” Coleman said. “Taking over for him is a huge shoe to fill. I didn’t realize how much he did behind the scenes, so that’s really been the hardest transition.”
“He has provided so much guidance and advice for me,” Coleman said. “I’ve called him, probably too many times for help or to ask a question. He has said he will come back any time I need it, and I have told him he’s welcome any time. He already asked for the schedule, and said he’s going to try and make our home games.”
If Simmons comes, he may need to get a program as well. The Blue Devils will not only be having to fill the big shoes left by Rogers, but five other starters as well.
“We have 13 girls on the team this year,” Coleman said. “We have five freshmen who are really helping us out, and quite a few other girls who are anxious for the opportunity to get some playing time.”
The Blue Devils do return a few talented players. Senior third baseman Bailee Roberts and senior shortstop Avery Wiggins have plenty of pop, and have anchored the left side of the infield since their freshman years. Junior catcher Lexi Tanner came through with some key hits last year, and junior outfielder Jamiah Jones provides plenty of speed in rounding out the returning starters from a year ago.
“We will be counting on our seniors for leadership this year,” Coleman said. “I feel like we have some players ready to step up in those other positions as well, and I don’t expect us to let up much from where we have been the past few years.”
The big key for the Blue Devils success this year is going to be who is going to be this year's pitcher. Coleman admits they won’t be as strong as they’ve been the past four years, but is optimistic about who they have on the mound.
“We have junior Jada Coble, and a couple of freshmen, Mincey Akins and Cambree Isaacson, working on the mound,” Coleman said. “All three are pretty accurate and dependable. They can move the ball, and spin the ball even though they don’t have the speed Brinson Ann had.”
The Blue Devils will also be jumping into a new classification, and a new region this year. South Effingham and Effingham County both have historically been state playoff caliber teams. In addition the Blue Devils will have to contend with Brunswick, Glynn Academy Bradwell and Richmond Hill.
“From what I’ve heard and researched Brunswick and Glynn Academy are pretty strong,” Coleman said. “Brunswick advanced to the elite 8 last year, so I have tried to do some scouting of them. I still think we can be one of the top two or three teams in the region, and we have a region tournament at the end where anything can happen.”
The Blue Devils are scheduled to open the 2020 season at the Warrior Blast Tournament in Reidsville August 7-8.