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BA to host tough tourney at GSU

    Last season, the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators traveled to Locust Grove near Atlanta for an early-season fast-pitch tournament.
    This season, they decided to stay home and host their own.
    “All of the teams involved liked last year’s tournament,” said BA head softball coach Chandler Dennard. “But when the tournament was not held again this year, we decided that we could host one in Statesboro.”
    The inaugural “Bulloch Bash” will be held today and Saturday at Georgia Southern University’s softball complex on Fair Road and Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department’s Memorial Field. All of Saturday’s games will be held at the GSU complex.
    “A big thanks goes to Brandon Cox (director of game operations at Georgia Southern University), America Minc (associate director of Campus Recreation and Intramurals) and the SBCPRD,” said Dennard. “We even get to play on the main field where the Lady Eagle softball team plays. The girls are really excited about that.”
    Twelve teams will battle for hardware in the gold, silver and bronze brackets. Teams slated to slug it out include Westfield, Pinewood Christian, Brentwood, Flint River, Arlington Christian, Robert Toombs, Windsor Academy, Gatewood, David Emanuel and Sherwood Christian. Admission is $5 per person and concessions will be available.
    “Westfield is a favorite in Class AAA while Pinewood is favored to win our region (4-AAA),” said Dennard. “Brentwood and Flint River are traditional Class AA powers. Arlington won the Class AA state championship last year and but they moved up to Class AAA this year.”
    Dennard looks forward to facing some of the best  programs the state has to offer right here in his own back yard.
    “It’s a great opportunity for us to bring these teams and supporters to our city,” said Dennard. “There will be some great softball games this weekend and several college prospects (including BA senior centerfielder Rachel Gilbert) playing on the teams.”
    Dennard wants to see if every other team is like his — young and inexperienced.
    “We have some talent now,” said Dennard. “There are times when we look really good. But there are times when our youth and inexperience shine through. That’s why we want to play a lot of games early to get them experience so by the time playoffs roll around, we’ll be ready.”
    Gilbert and Rebekah White are the only two seniors on the 2010 squad. They both realize the roles they have to play this season in order to help strengthen the team.
    “We lost five key seniors in critical areas to graduation,” said Gilbert. “We are trying to figure out who will be the best player where and which nine girls mesh well on the field. We are excited about this weekend’s tournament. If we just go out there and play and not worry about who we are playing, we’ll be fine. A lot of our problem is mental so we just have to stay focused.”
    Dennard agrees.
    “When you’re playing 14- and 15-year old girls, anything can happen,” he said. “It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride this season.”