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Plenty of girls shine on All-Area softball squad
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Another softball season has come to a close and — as has been the case recently — it was another year of highs and lows for area schools.

Three teams (Bulloch Academy, Screven County and Southeast Bulloch) advanced into their respective state tournaments while Portal and Statesboro had more than their fair share of struggles.

The Lady Gators of Bulloch Academy nearly made 2012 a season for the history books. The Gators battled through a brutally tough regular season, but those early challenges paid off in the postseason. Bulloch advanced all the way to the semifinals and notched a fourth place finish in the highest classification of GISA.

Screven County’s season followed a similar path. The Lady Gamecocks were bullied around by top-notch competition throughout August, but caught fire and rolled to a second place finish in Region 3-AA before falling in the first round of the state playoffs. Southeast Bulloch also bowed out in the first round — a bit short of what the Lady Yellow Jackets had hoped for, but still impressive for SEB’s first season in Class AAA.

Neither Statesboro nor Portal saw postseason action, but had a few big wins to use as they try to take a step forward in 2013.

Regardless of where the schools finished, there is no doubting that the area had plenty of talent scattered around the field. Plenty of girls are deserving of recognition for their efforts this season, but here are the best of the best in the area for 2012.


Pitcher: Sierra Peebles (So., SEB) and Lauren Dennard (Sr., Bulloch Acad.) —



C: Victoria Winters (Fr., Screven Co.) –



1B: Kenya Huff (Jr., Portal) —



2B: Alexis Costlow (So., SHS) —



SS: Effie Manahan (Sr., SEB) —



3B: Ashley Burke (So., Bulloch Acad.) —



OF: Mary Lane (Sr., Portal) —



OF: Ciera Clark (Jr., SEB) —



OF: Mary Margaret Reeves (So., Bulloch Acad.) —



Honorable Mention:



Sarah Brown (Sr. SS, SHS), Lindsey Crosby (Jr. 2B, SEB), Hannah Jones (So. 1B, Screven), Kristen Kingery (So. P, SHS), Leah McCarthy (Jr. 3B, SEB), Mary Grace Manahan (Fr. C, SEB), Paige Spence (So. OF, Bulloch Acad.)


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

Good defenses start with strong play up the middle, and few can cover ground in center field better than Reeves. When she wasn’t robbing opponents of extra bases in the field, Reeves was the perfect table-setter for the Gators. Her .359 batting average and .457 on-base percentage both led all BA batters. Reeves’ speed allowed her to cross the plate 20 times and got her 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts.


When it came to the SEB offense, nobody got the party started quite like leadoff batter Ciera Clark. Just a few seasons into her Yellow Jacket career, Clark has established herself as one of the biggest threats in the SEB lineup. She is consistently able to give her team a base runner early in games and a batting average of well over .300 makes her just as dangerous in driving other runners home.


There weren’t many highlights on the softball diamond for Portal, but senior outfielder Mary Lane was a big reason that the Panthers improved throughout the year. On a team that has experienced tons of turnover and some very lean roster numbers in the last few years, Lane was a constant fixture in the lineup.


As the Gators advanced through the postseason, the hot bat of Burke keyed many of their wins. Burke’s glove made her stand out among players throughout the area and her 22 RBI and .316 batting average paced the BA offense throughout the year.


Manahan projected to make this list heading into the season, but not at this position. After spending her first three seasons as the Jackets’ starting catcher, Manahan transitioned to shortstop in order to fill in a team need. Manahan took on the new role, quickly becoming a slick-fielding middle infielder while continuing to terrorize opposing pitchers with her great power at the plate.


The Statesboro Blue Devils knew that they had issues in their infield before the season even began. Three-year starting shortstop Sarah Brown was lost for the season with an injury and the Devils had to depend on some inexperienced newcomers to fill the void. Costlow stepped up and tried her hand at several infield spots as the season went along and provided Statesboro with a steady set of hands up the middle.


While Portal endured plenty of struggles this season, the Panthers are definitely on the right track. Huff was a driving force in improving a team that was winless in 2011. Spending plenty of time at both corner infield positions and also providing pitching support, Huff was one of the most versatile and indispensible players on the Portal roster.


Heading into this season, the Gamecocks weren’t quite sure about their catching situation. Graduation had left them without an experienced backstop, but Winters stepped up in a big way. The freshman proved to be a reliable everyday catcher and was one of the top first-year players in the region at the plate.


Everything starts with quality pitching and Peebles and Dennard are two of the best around. Peebles walked right into an ace role for the Jackets two years ago and didn’t waste any time impressing Jackets fans and striking fear into opponents. She stepped it up a notch this season and continued to be a strikeout machine even as the Jackets bumped up to a higher classification. Dennard was a consistent presence on the mound throughout her tenure with the Gators. Dennard was at her best in Bulloch’s biggest games — a trait she showed once again in this season’s run to the semifinals.