A week after beginning their regular season schedule, the Bulloch Academy softball team makes its first home appearance this weekend as they host the third annual Bulloch Bash.
The Lady Gators will welcome in 11 teams from all around the state, offering a chance for schools to get plenty of game action under their belts before region schedules get underway.
The wins and losses this weekend won’t have any bearing on the Gators’ postseason aspirations, but they still want to get off to a good start against some stiff competition. Last week, Bulloch finished second in a 12-team tournament at Windsor Academy in Macon. This week, the Gators are joined in the Bulloch Bash by some of the top teams in GISA — including the top five ranked teams in Class-AAA.
“There’s no other way that we’d rather have it,” said BA coach Chandler Dennard of the brutal early schedule. “Every year, we start the season with the same goals of winning our region and contending in the state playoffs. We know that there are a lot of very good teams out there, but we like getting out there and testing ourselves against them.”
Last season, only the top of the Class-AAA heap was able to take down the Gators. Bulloch posted a 24-6 record — with all six losses coming against teams that advanced to the state Final Four — in making to the Class-AAA quarterfinals.
This year’s squad will look very similar to the 2011 Gators as seven position players and Bulloch’s top two pitchers all return with another year of experience under their belts.
The Gators will once again rely heavily on pitching and defense to get them through a region that now includes Brentwood — a top-5 team that hosts Bulloch in the Region 4-AAA opener on August 14.
A battle-tested pitching duo of Lauren Dennard and Madelyn Vickery has faced the best that the GISA has to offer and figures to be up to the challenge again in 2012. In the field, the Gators have shifted some of their position players around the diamond and will continue to search for the perfect combination.
“With so many returning players, we have a lot of depth,” Dennard said. “Because of that, we can experiment with putting some girls in different spots and seeing what works. We’re just looking for the combination that gives us the best chance to win.”
On offense, the Gators hope to be a more imposing threat than in years past. Though never a bad hitting squad, Dennard noted that many of the Gators have made significant progress with contact and power throughout the summer.
If the pitching and defense comes through as expected, adding even an extra run or two per game to Bulloch’s offense will make it a force to be reckoned with.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.