Four area teams will travel to Savannah today to begin play in the 2006 state softball tournament, playing for the ultimate goal of a state championship. Screven County, Southeast Bulloch, Metter and Claxton all qualified for the South Sectional to be held at the Paulson Complex in Savannah.
The Screven County Gamecocks go into this weekend’s tournament with a full head of steam, meeting Brantley County (14-7) at 6 p.m.
“It was a journey,” said Screven head coach Kevin Pollack of the recent region 3-AA tournament. “We had two great games against an excellent SEB team, and the team that made the fewer mistakes won.”
Screven (21-4) took home the 3-AA title with two wins over SEB and one over Metter. Pollack said his girls were on a high after the championship run.
“It’s my job as a coach to bring them back down to reality,” said Pollack. “In (the state) tournament anybody can beat anyone.”
The Yellow Jackets of SEB (22-3) have already learned that lesson the hard way. SEB entered the final week of the season at 21-0 before dropping the season finale to Screven, then twice more to the Gamecocks in the region tournament. They enter today’s tourney as the two seed out of region three.
“We were a little bit down,” said SEB head coach Aimee Civalier. “But I told them they have two choices: they can pout or suck it up and go back to work.”
Civalier said winning region was one of the Jackets’ goals at the beginning of the year. Although that wasn’t accomplished, she said advancing to Columbus for the Elite Eight is still something they definitely feel they can achieve.
Southeast will open play against Jeff Davis (20-5), a team they faced in last year’s South Sectional in the loser’s bracket.
“We beat them last time, so they’ll be ready,” said Civalier. “They’re well coached and play solid defense and have solid pitching. It should be a good game.”
The third team out of 3-AA is the Metter Tigers. A young team with just 10 players, head coach Don Mims said a return visit to the South Sectionals wasn’t expected at the season’s outset.
“We were hit hard with graduation,” said Mims, whose Tigers have made the Elite Eight two years running. “We really didn’t expect to make state, but the girls have worked real hard.”
The Tigers (12-11) will start two freshman and one sophomore in the outfield this weekend and ride the arm of Adrienne Lanier. Lanier has been battling a blister on her finger all week.
“(Lanier) has to keep the ball down,” said Mims of his sophomore pitcher. “She got the ball up in the region tournament and got into some trouble. If we're to succeed, she’s got to be healthy and keep the ball down.”
Metter will face Pierce County (16-6-1), a team Mims described as, “experienced with an excellent pitcher”.
In Class A, Claxton fought its way through the region 3-A tournament to enter this weekend’s tournament as a three seed.
Coming off a four-win season in 2005, the Tigers are making their first appearance in the fast-pitch softball state tourney. Head Coach Joy Daughtry knows one of the big reasons why.
“Our seniors have been key,” said Daughtry. “They’ve been the core of this team and been great leaders.”
First-baseman Kellie Adams, second-baseman Ashley Kennedy, outfielders Myah Freeman, Endya Jones, Jasmine Mosby and catcher Twylicia Valentine have been instrumental in Claxton’s success.
Daughtry and her six seniors feel they have a good shot in this weekend’s tournament and feel like they can play with the competition.
“We have to win with our speed,” said Daughtry. “We’re not the type of team that can sit back and wait for the big hit. We have to use our speed both offensively and defensively.”
Valentine will be questionable for CHS with a foot injury and sophomore Hanna Oglesby will get the nod at starting pitcher against Truetlen (16-11) at 4 p.m.