The Bulloch Academy Lady Gators have seen a long run of excellence on the softball diamond. Unsurprisingly, each year seems to bring about a new group of veteran leaders who lead the team through a tough region slate and on into the postseason.
This year is no exception as junior catcher Kaleigh Sisolak has led the Gators to within striking distance of a region championship.
Three seasons ago, Bulloch coach Chandler Dennard seemed to have a problem as All-State catcher and four-year starter Taylor Collins had graduated.
He turned to Sisolak — then just a freshman — to fill those big shoes. Three seasons down the road, it’s clear that the right choice was made.
“We’ve been blessed to have a few really good catchers that have started multiple years for us,” Dennard said. “Kaleigh is definitely one of them. She can see more than I can see from her spot behind home plate. Over her three years, she’s gotten familiar with how we coach the game and now she’s comfortable with taking that onto the field with her.”
“I’ve tried to get better every year,” Sisolak said. “This year, we lost a lot of great players from last season. I wanted to be that person. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be one of the players that everyone can rely on.”
Bulloch (8-5, 4-1 Region 2-AAA) has enjoyed plenty of offense this season and Sisolak has done more than her fair share.
She is batting .455 with seven doubles and 14 runs batted in so far this season. Even more impressive than those gaudy stats — she hasn’t struck out even once in her 46 plate appearances.
When Sisolak isn’t doing damage at the plate, she’s running the whole show behind it.
This season, she’s been given the reins to the Gator pitching staff, calling almost every pitch herself. It’s a huge vote of confidence for any coach to give that sort of control to a catcher — especially one who isn’t yet in her senior season.
“I feel comfortable working with our pitchers,” Sisolak said. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot from our coaches and they’ve given me more and more responsibility. Every once in a while I’ll come back to the dugout with a question, but they keep me on track and that gives me confidence.”
The Gators will need Sisolak and everyone else on the roster today as they face arch-rival Pinewood in the regular season finale.
With a win, the Gators can force a one-game playoff for the region championship.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.