BROOKLET — The end of the 2013 softball season couldn’t have left a worse taste in the mouths of the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets.
SEB dropped a 10-inning marathon in the Region 1-AAA quarterfinals last season, eliminating the Jackets before the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. Four seniors are gone from that squad, but the Jackets still bring plenty of experience to the diamond this fall.
“The girls definitely remember last year,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “I think that heartbreaker has really helped to motivate us. It’s really driving these girls to improve and to go that extra step this season.”
With just one senior, Storm Williams, on the squad, much of the offseason has been spent getting the younger Yellow Jackets ready to play against older competition. Fundamentals were the primary concern of training sessions throughout the summer while five exhibition doubleheaders, coupled with six games in two days at Bulloch Academy’s ‘Striking Out Alzheimer’s’ tournament showed some of the new varsity players the grind that awaits in the regular season.
“We had a chance to see a lot of girls in a lot of different spots,” Civalier said. “That was our main goal throughout the summer. We just need to figure out what lineups and positioning works best and then carry that into the season.”
As is always the case in high school softball, pitching will be one of the biggest keys to success. SEB will still be relying on underclassmen to take the mound all season long, but last year’s experience should pay dividends as sophomores Blair Chapman and Madison Fields prepare to shoulder the load.
No matter who is on the rubber, the Jackets are looking forward to another season of strong infield defense and an outfield that can cover plenty of ground. If another offseason of conditioning can increase strikeout rates for the pitching staff, runs will be hard to come across for any opponent.
Offensively, balance will be the Jackets’ goal.
Centerfielder Emma Britt quickly became a fixture at the top of the lineup in her freshman season and she will once again be counted on to set the table. Lauren Harden joins Britt as a left-handed slap hitter with great speed and the pair will look to create havoc on the base paths with Mary Grace Manahan and Morgan Joiner supplying power from the middle of the order.
“I think we have a chance to be solid in a lot of different areas,” Civalier said. “We can make contact and we have speed and power in the lineup. That’s why we’ve been focusing on fundamentals in the offseason. We need to be able to put all of those things together to be able to win games.”
The Jackets play one final scrimmage today as they host Effingham County.
SEB’s regular season begins Aug. 11 with a home date against old rival Screven County. The Jackets’ first sub-region contest is scheduled for Aug. 19 at Beach.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.