BROOKLET — When Southeast Bulloch first started turning heads on the softball diamond and making state playoff runs, many wrote off the Yellow Jackets as a fluke.
That was almost a decade ago.
Since then, SEB has been a consistent winner, piling up wins and taking more than its fair share of postseason success. As the 2012 season gets underway, the Jackets are primed for another year as a dominant force.
The last two seasons have been a growing process for SEB. In 2010, the Jackets relied on a team that fielded a varsity squad packed with freshmen. Last year, those same freshmen returned with more experience and the Jackets found themselves an ace on the mound in Sierra Peebles.
In both seasons, the Jackets continued to be contenders and only figure to be better this time around as they return a veteran and experienced roster.
“It’s definitely nice to have so many girls coming back to us that have played for a couple of seasons,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “They have been through a tough region schedule and postseason play. They have all been in a spot where they’ve been depended on to produce for us. It’s good to begin a season knowing that we can depend on everyone that we put out there.”
Without question, the Jackets’ biggest strength will continue to come from their ability to dominate from the pitcher’s rubber.
Peebles burst onto the scene last year and figures to continue to dominate batters with her raw power and expansive repertoire. While other teams can also boast ace pitchers, SEB also has the luxury of junior Taylor Wilkes on the mound. Wilkes was a welcome surprise for the Jackets in 2010 before taking the No. 2 spot last year. Wilkes once again joins with Peebles to keep each other well-rested while still ensuring SEB plenty of quality pitching.
“Getting good pitching is so important at this level,” said Civalier. “Obviously, that’s something that we have going for us. We’re lucky enough to have a couple of girls that we know will go out and give us a chance to win every day.”
With the Jackets’ pitching in good hands, the main goal will be producing more on offense. The Jackets have plenty of contact hitters and can utilize their abundance of speed to put pressure on opponents, but the ability to rack up extra base hits will make them even more dangerous.
For that task, senior catcher Effie Manahan will lead the way. Manahan enters her fourth season as the chief backstop and is slotted at the cleanup position of the batting order for a third consecutive year.
With juniors like Dallas McClellan, Lindsey Crosby and Leah McCarthy entering their third season as regular starters, a step forward on offense could make SEB a threat to go deep into the state playoffs.
Of course, those state playoffs would have a completely new look to the Jackets as they begin their first season in Class AAA.
SEB now makes its home in Region 1 AAA, a region that it will share with Brantley County, which reached the Class-AA Elite Eight alongside the Jackets last season. SEB figures to be the favorite on its side of the division — which includes Johnson of Savannah, Islands, Appling County and Beach — but Civalier isn’t taking anything for
“There is a lot of talent in this new region,” said Civalier. “Looking at the schools and their recent history, it seems like we have a good chance to compete. But the important part is that we show up ready to play."
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.