BROOKLET — For all of its recent success as a team, there has been one constant cog in the Southeast Bulloch softball machine for the last four seasons.
Effie Manahan burst onto the scene in 2009 as a freshman whose big bat made an immediate impact for the Lady Yellow Jackets. Now a senior, Manahan is one of the most feared offensive threats in the region and the driving force behind another SEB postseason run.
"Effie is a special player," said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. "I had nothing but the highest of expectations of her this year, and she has met every one of them."
Manahan has been off the charts offensively this season, hitting .551 with five home runs and 16 RBI. Of her 27 hits, 15 have gone for extra bases, leading to an incredible 1.061 slugging percentage.
Her power showed up at the perfect time for the Jackets (13-4, 6-0 Region 1-AAA) in their latest victory. Locked in a tight game with Swainsboro, Manahan launched a two-run home run to push SEB out in front. The Jackets held on for a 3-2 win — their 11th win in their last 12 games.
For all that is made of Manahan’s ability to change a game with her bat, she has also made an impact at a couple of positions defensively for the Jackets. Manahan served as the everyday catcher for the majority of her first three seasons, but has now shifted to shortstop in order to shore up the infield defense.
"It’s exciting for me," said Manahan. "There’s a lot more going on that I have to keep track of. I know that there’s a lot more to learn, but it also feels like there is more that I can do to help the team out at shortstop."
"It’s a thinking position," said Civalier. "And that works out perfectly for Effie. As great as she is, she’s not the type of person to assume that she knows everything. She is working hard to learn all of the little things about playing (at shortstop) and she’s getting better and better."
In one instance this season, Manahan even found herself on the mound when SEB needed a pitcher.
"I forget what exactly the situation was, but we needed someone to go pitch," said Civalier. "Effie stepped up and got the job done. She’s going to do whatever is asked of her."
No matter where she lines up on the diamond, Manahan knows that the main goal for herself and the rest of the Jackets lies in the upcoming postseason. After missing the state playoffs in Manahan’s freshman season, the Jackets reached the first round in 2010 and made it to the Elite Eight last season.
Armed with a battle-tested squad, it is possible that the Jackets can make the next big leap forward this year.
"We definitely learned a lot and are better because of our experience last year," said Manahan. "We’ve seen the kind of team that we need to be in order to win in the playoffs."
First off for the Jackets will be advancing to the state playoffs.
With a win over Appling County next week — Manahan knocked in one of the two SEB runs in a 2-0 victory the first time the two teams met — the Jackets can clinch their sub-region and get an automatic berth in the state playoffs.
From there, seeding will be key. Even though SEB is in its first year as a Class AAA school, it is one of the favorites to take the Region 1-AAA tournament title, grab a top seed in the state tournament, and capture home field advantage in the opening rounds of the playoffs.
"That’s something that we talk about every day. It’s written down on our list of goals," said Manahan. "There’s a lot of quality teams to beat, but we believe that we can do it."
Those words should serve as a warning to the rest of the region.
Manahan’s words aren’t a promise or a guarantee, but if her SEB career has proven anything, it’s that she’ll pursue her goals and succeed with flying colors.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.