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Lady Blue Devils open 2014 season
Statesboro

    The Statesboro High softball team opens up play today in hopes that a good mix of returning starters and up-and-coming talent is the key to getting things on track.
    The Lady Blue Devils’ recent past has been a bit more than a struggle. With just a handful of wins over the last five seasons, any sort of spark will be a step in the right direction.
    “We’re very optimistic about the season,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “We’ve got about 18 girls on the team to give us some options to find our best lineup. There are a lot of girls coming up from the middle school level and I expect that some of them can help us right away.”
    One of the young guns that figures to factor into the everyday lineup is Brenaye Taylor. The freshman can play just about any position on the field and also projects to be a force in the middle of the Devils’ batting order.
    As is the case with many of the newcomers, the first few weeks of non-region games will see plenty of shuffling until Simmons decides on his optimal lineup.
    Seniors Alexis Hunter, Lucia Lyons, Danielle Williams and Danielle Cowart were all regulars on last season’s squad and will hold down their respective positions while helping the incoming freshmen adjust to the new level of play.
    Juniors Alexis Costlow and Haley Colson are returning starters who will provide solid defense while also being tasked with doing a lot of the Devils’ offensive damage.
    “I’m pleased with how we’ve been swinging so far,” Simmons said. “I think we have a few that we can look to for driving in runs while a lot of our younger girls can run a little bit and play small ball.”
    Williams recorded plenty of innings on the mound last season and will get the nod in the opening game today as the Devils host North Cobb Christian in a doubleheader at Mill Creek Regional Park.
    The rest of the pitching staff is unproven, but if all goes well, Statesboro will have its best depth in years.
    “Cassidy Stevens and McKenny Corbett are a couple of freshman pitchers that have been doing well,” Simmons said. “In the intra-squad games and in bullpen sessions, they’ve been good at throwing strikes. If they can continue to improve, we’ll be really excited.”
    Even if the Devils take the forward steps they’re hoping for, making the postseason will be a tall order.
    Reclassification and realignment have placed Statesboro in Class AAAAA. In the Devils’ sub-divided region, perennial powers Effingham County, South Effingham and Richmond Hill will all be very tough opponents.
    “The top four in the sub-region get a chance to play for the state playoffs,” Simmons said. “So that’s our goal. It won’t be easy, but I think we have a team that is determined to improve and meet our goals.”

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