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Jackets get ready to contend in '13

    BROOKLET — Last season, the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets found themselves in new waters.
    After years of vying for region titles at the Class AA level, SEB was bumped up to Class AAA. Taking it all in stride, the Jackets continued their winning ways and reached the state playoffs. This season, SEB is looking forward to taking the next step and going a bit farther.
    Of course, every new year means older players leaving and the Jackets have two very big sets of cleats to fill. All-Region catcher-turned-shortstop Effie Manahan starred for four years in Brooklet, terrorizing opposing pitchers and playing stellar defense wherever she was needed. Sierra Peebles lit up radar guns in her first two seasons with SEB, but moved out of the school system in the offseason.
    “Obviously, that’s a lot for us to replace,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “We knew we’d miss Effie and it was a big hit when we found out that our junior pitcher wouldn’t be back. It’ll take a lot of learning and growing as the season goes on, but we still expect to be successful.”
    Luckily for Civalier, there is plenty of returning talent. Cierra Clark, Leah McCarthy and Dallas McClellan are all multiple year starters with plenty of big game experience in the past. Mary Grace Manahan provided solid play as a freshman last season and will look to provide some of the power lost when her sister graduated last spring.
    Among the expected day-to-day starters are three freshman (including a pitching staff of three that are all in their first year of high school). The new Jackets have plenty of potential, but this year’s success will depend on how quickly they can develop into contributors at the varsity level.
    “Our seniors and veterans are going to play a big part,” Civalier said. “We need them to start off well and to set an example. I think that we’ve got some really talented younger girls, but the returning girls need to help them along the way.”

Swainsboro 6, SEB 1
    Sierra Peebles spent the last two years as Southeast Bulloch’s ace pitcher. She’s still an ace, but — unfortunately for SEB — she’s no longer a Yellow Jacket.
    Now a Swainsboro Tiger, Peebles returned to her old stomping grounds and dealt her former teammates a 6-1 loss Friday afternoon. Peebles went the distance, striking out six while allowing just three hits and an unearned run.
    SEB freshman pitcher Blair Chapman turned in a stellar effort, but four unearned runs put her in line to take the loss.
    Swainsboro’s first three batters of the game reached on an error and two singles with all coming around to score. The Jackets trimmed their deficit to 3-1 in the third as freshman Emma Britt walked and came in to score on a throwing error.
    Britt broke up Peebles’ no-hit bid with an infield single in the fifth.
    Avery Berry added some insurance for the Tigers with a two-run single in the sixth and Peebles helped her own cause with an RBI single in the seventh.
    SEB will return to action Monday as they face Screven County in Sylvania.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.